Port: Will North Dakota lawmakers say yes to private school subsidies after saying no to school lunch bill?


Minot, N.D. — North Dakota’s state Senate, today, narrowly defeated House Bill 1491 which, if passed in its present form, would have expanded our state’s low-income lunch program to people up to 200% of the poverty level.

This sounds like a lot until you consider that’s currently just $49,720 per year for a household that includes two parents and one child. It’s just $60,000 per year for a couple with two children.

The vote was 24-23, and the argument which seemed to carry the most weight during floor debate was one having to do with personal responsibility. Multiple lawmakers – including Republicans Sen. Michael Wobbema and Sen. Judy Estenson – argued that it is the responsibility of parents to pay for their child’s lunches.

Which makes sense, I guess, in a vacuum, but Sen. Kristin Roers, also a Republican, made what I thought was a poignant point, noting that this Legislature is also considering a bill – House Bill 1532 – that would direct $24 million to subsidies for private school tuition .

“I would argue that there are some people in this room who are very much in favor of giving $24 million to offset some of the tuition costs, and yet this is just a fraction of that dollar total to be able to feed kids,” Roers told the Senate chamber. “We require them to go to school. We provide them with books. We provide them with a Chromebook. We don’t ask them to pay for part of the electricity bill. And yet we’re asking them to pay part of the food bill.”

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