Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal is asking the state to provide free meals for all school students as part of their basic education.

Reykdal announced a proposal Thursday for the Legislature to invest $86 million a year on free meals for the 330,000 students who don’t qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

Reykdal will submit the proposal to Gov. Jay Inslee and the legislature to be considered in the next legislative session.

The plan calls for all Washington students to have access to free school meals by the 2023–24 school year.

Federal money has provided universal free school meals for the past two years during the pandemic, but that program in ending.

As it stands now, federal rules allow for schools to get full reimbursement for all meals they serve if 62.5 percent of the students are either low-income or at risk of hunger. They qualify for partial reimbursement if at least 40% of students meet that threshold.

The state Legislature this year provided money to cover the difference for schools that fall between the 40 percent and 62.5 percent.

Some states have moved to offer free meals to all students this year, including California, Vermont and Massachusetts.

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