Inslee signs bill allowing 'Breakfast After The Bell' in high need schools

OLYMPIA, Wash. - For kids who can't always get three meals per day at home, free and reduced-cost school breakfast is crucial. 

Currently, in order to receive the meal, students have to get to school before the first bell so they can finish eating before class begins.

On Wednesday, Governor Inslee signed a bill that to change that. House Bill 1508, called the 'Breakfast After the Bell' bill, allows kids to eat their free or reduced-cost breakfast in their classrooms while class activities get underway, if they can't get there early enough to eat beforehand. 

Gov. Inslee's office explained, “The bill allows participation in Breakfast After the Bell to count as instructional time as long as the students are engaged in educational activities during their breakfast and the meal does not disrupt classroom instruction.”

According to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the change will affect a lot of kids. 

Data from last school year shows about 43 percent of students in Washington's public schools use free or reduced-price meal programs. 

When it comes to breakfast, various factors cause many of these kids to struggle to get to school with enough time.

"Sometimes they're busy taking care of other siblings, sometimes they don't have a reliable way of getting to school, sometimes the bus arrives late,” Inslee said at the bill signing on Wednesday.  “This bill will rectify the problem they face by requiring high need schools to offer Breakfast After the Bell.”

Highline Public Schools, in south King county, has recently been testing the Breakfast After the Bell program. 

In 2013, 74 percent of students in the Highline district qualified for free or reduced-cost meals, but only 30 percent of them were regularly eating breakfast.

Since trying out the program, the number of kids eating free or reduced-cost breakfast has seen a 20 percent boost. 

The Breakfast After the Bell program is set to be implemented statewide by the start of the 2019-2020 school year.

It will be used primarily in schools where at least 70 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

The new law also directs the state’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee to complete an analysis of the program’s effectiveness by 2026.