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TJ Jerke, Forum News Service, Published February 05 2013

Mock, Boschee’s milk break spoiled by GOP

BISMARCK – Democratic lawmakers are using milk cartons to collect change at their desks to help fund a school milk program that was voted out of committee Tuesday with a do-not-pass recommendation.

Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, who organized the milk carton fundraiser, said they plan to donate any money raised to a local school.

“Instead of spending time spewing rhetoric about policy, we are going to take matters into our own hands,” he said.

House Bill 1421, sponsored by Rep. Josh Boschee, D-Fargo, would allocate $500,000 from the state’s general fund to the Department of Public Instruction to assist school districts throughout the state to ensure all kindergarten through third-grade students receive milk or juice during a designated snack break.

Boschee told the House Education Committee on Monday during the bill’s hearing that the funding would primarily focus on children who benefit from the free and reduced lunch program, who currently sit empty-handed during the break because their parents cannot afford the extra expenses.

Currently 13,518 K-3 children qualify for the free and reduced meal programs in North Dakota. Boschee said about 6,000 would benefit from the bill.

“This means that literally, some students are consuming milk or juice during the break while other students sit with nothing,” Boschee said in his testimony. “This is unfortunate because as you know, when students are hungry, they lack focus and ability to concentrate in the classroom.”

The bill was voted out with a straight party-line vote, 10 Republicans voted not to pass the bill, three Democrats voted in favor.

Mock, a member of the House Education Committee, said he was very frustrated during the Tuesday afternoon hearing of the bill, which “was turned down quickly with no attempt to provide some assistance.”

Rep. David Rust, R-Tioga, opposed the bill. He said the state is not currently administering or funding the program because the federal government used to.

“If it’s something they want, they should fund it,” he said.

He also pointed out children benefitting from the program already receive milk during breakfast and lunch and this “is not a case of someone going hungry,” he said.

The bill will likely be heard on the House floor this week. Because it received a do-not-pass vote, if it fails, it is dead and will no longer be debated. If it passes, it will be sent to the House Appropriations Committee for a hearing.

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