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Colorado voters have approved a ballot measure to provide free meals to all public school students, according to a call from the Associated Press.
By a comfortable margin of 55 percent to 45 percent, they voted to create a program to provide those meals and help schools pay for them, according to election results.
The measure would help schools pay for meals by raising $100 million a year by raising taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents. Those who earn more than $300,000 a year will see limited state tax deductions, which will increase their taxable income.
The vote comes after the expiration of a federal universal free lunch program launched during the pandemic. This has left states scrambling to restore funding.
Supporters say nearly 70,000 Colorado children can’t afford school meals, but also don’t qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.
“I believe every child should eat, regardless of their parents’ income,” said Maria Olvera, a voter and mother of a school-age daughter in Westminster, noting that food is getting pretty expensive.
“No child should be left behind,” she said.
“This is a huge victory for hungry children,” said Ashley Wieland of Hunger Free Colorado.
The measure would also fund wage increases for front-line school cafeteria workers, which would help address staffing shortages and incentivize schools to buy Colorado products.
There was no organized opposition to the measure. But critics said the program was unnecessary and too expensive. Some question whether free meals for all is necessary, especially since low-income students will continue to receive free meals under current law.
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