As Democrats in Congress frantically try to save a bill that provides free lunches for needy children before it expires June 30, some Republicans are holding up the measure because they object to federal discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ children included in the program.
The pandemic lunch program provides up to 10 million kids with free breakfasts and lunches. On Thursday, the House approved the Senate’s changes for a $3 billion extension that will allow waivers for all children to receive meals to be extended into summer and next school year.
But, Politico reports, Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) and and several other Senate Republicans wrote a letter to the Government Accountability Office opposing a new guideline that bans discrimination practices against LGBTQ+ students who participate in lunch programs that receive the money. Without those votes, an extension of the program is up in the air with a deadline looming.
“I’m just afraid that schools in Kansas won’t have school lunches because of this administration’s radical view on transgender issues,” Marshall said. “And I’m afraid that they’re going to raid the school lunch program over that issue.”
Marshall told Politico he hasn’t decided to go through with the objection but he claims the Biden administration was trying “to use the school lunch issue to gain leverage over [schools’ broader LGBTQ+ policies].” Florida Gov. Ron Desantis echoed these same sentiments, saying the guidance is “trying to deny school lunch programs for states that don’t do transgender ideology in the schools.”
The facts of the program don’t support that argument.
The USDA’s anti-discrimination guidance is only geared at programs that receive federal nutrition money. It would not change anything in regards to teaching or curriculum. Officials also reiterated that they wouldn’t stop the money just because states like Florida have passed laws hindering LGBTQ+ and non-binary identifying children. For example, a transgender person can file a complaint as an individual if an official refuses to provide them breakfast or lunch because of their gender identity.
There was hope that the new round of funding would be on President Biden’s desk by this weekend. That is not entirely certain at this point and time. Talk of extending the enhanced child tax credit has all but died off. Now, school children might go hungry if a few Senate Republicans can’t get over the fact that certain protections need to be in place.