This week’s Bad Bill of the Week features the resurrection of a Bad Bill feature from two years ago.
House Bill 609, The Healthy and High Performing Schools Act, is sponsored by Reps. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford), Susan Fisher (D-Buncombe) and Becky Carney (D-Mecklenburg). HB 609 is a near carbon-copy of the 2013 bill, which at that time was described as “a lengthy bill filled with mind-numbing amounts of detail in an attempt to micro-manage the lives of schoolchildren.”
The focus of the bill is nutrition and exercise for students of public schools, but it creates such a precise set of requirements as to be either unenforceable or to require an additional army of bureaucrats in the education establishment to enforce.
The specifics of the bill’s requirements include:
- An attempt to define – to the milligram – what a “healthy” breakfast or lunch is
- Extra reimbursement would be provided to schools serving meals that meet these exacting specifications
- Additional reimbursement for schools serving at least one component of meals that is “locally and entirely unprocessed
- Making state government grants available for schools meeting specified physical activity goals
- The bill outlines – to the minute – the average amount of exercise children should engage in each week, broken down by grade level
- The bill also attempts to define and differentiate “moderate to vigorous physical activity” from other forms of exercise
- Requirement that public schools offer free breakfast for all students
- All food and drink sold in public schools, even from vending machines, must meet the nutritional requirements of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “HealthierUS School Challenge program” at the “Gold Award Level” – which is a part of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign to force children to eat healthier foods. Students across the country have roundly expressed disdain with the new food selections.
- Vending machines available in the teacher’s lounge are exempt from this requirement, however
- Schools violating these requirements will be forced to pay a fine of $500 per day
Other items included in the bill include the creation of an “environmental programs” office at DPI that, among other things, would be tasked with overseeing and monitoring the amount of recycling done at schools, and the development of an “environmental literacy” plan for schools.
There is no fiscal note attached to the bill, but there is little doubt the price tag to taxpayers would be significant. Not only would the additional expenditure for “healthy” meals and snacks be hefty, but the dizzying amount of data collection, tracking, monitoring and enforcement would require untold amounts of bureaucratic paperwork and the additional swarm of bureaucrats to push the papers. This growth of bureaucracy would exact a still greater toll on taxpayers.
House Bill 609 does nothing to address the failures of public schools nor does it work to improve the quality of education received by North Carolina students. But it does enlarge the government education bureaucracy, impose an absurd level of micromanagement upon the schools, and recklessly spend still more taxpayer dollars. For these reasons, it is this week’s Bad Bill of the Week.