April 29th, 2013, 7:10pm :: On Monday LA Unified board member Bennet Kayser called for improvements to the school district’s one-year old Breakfast in the Classroom program, not its elimination.
The statement was prompted by a move by Superintendent John Deasy to put to a vote of the school board the future of a program that's the first project of LA Fund For Public Education, founded by Deasy and an LA philanthropist. The program has fed more than 200,000 students at a third of the district’s schools by moving federally-funded breakfast into the first 15 minutes of the school day
In a written statement, Kayser said an audit earlier this year of the Breakfast in the Classroom program returned a list of things worth fixing but did not propose the program’s elimination. The audit found that some clean-up procedures weren’t followed and that time allotted to eat the breakfast was exceeded by 5 to 30 minutes.
“A better communication and action plan should be considered and brought before the Board. It should take into account any lost instructional time in this era of pressure on students, teachers and parents to achieve better on tests,” Kayser said.
Support for Breakfast in the Classroom appears to have become the latest litmus test for support of current Superintendent John Deasy and his policies.
Kayser said he couldn’t explain a proposal last week by Deasy to take the $6 million funding for the program out of the main budget proposal and put it up for a vote of the seven-member board of education.
Deasy had told the LA Times that United Teachers Los Angeles had made it clear the program was a big problem. He was talking about a teachers survey released a week earlier that found most teachers didn’t like the program because it attracted pests and ate into as much as half an hour of instruction time. Teachers said they’d support Breakfast in the Classroom if it became breakfast in the cafeteria.
Meals are served in the classroom to increase participation rates. UTLA has said it can only support the program if it’s moved to cafeterias. Kayser, a strong backer of the union, did not echo the union’s position.
If board members vote to eliminate the breakfast program, about a thousand jobs would be lost. That’s according to leaders of Service Employees International Union Local 99, which represents LA Unified cafeteria workers.
The union has scheduled a Tuesday morning protest that it says will be attended by parents, cafeteria workers, and custodians outraged that the breakfast program may be eliminated. SEIU praised the program for delivering an important meal to thousands of low-income students.