School Board Comes Out Against State Bills Mandating Less Sugar in Student Meals

County education officials oppose five school-related bills, stay neutral on another


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The Montgomery County Board of Education on Tuesday talked about state bills set for consideration during this year's Maryland General Assembly session.

Via Montgomery County Public Schools

The Montgomery County Board of Education is opposing state bills that would allow school systems to buy used buses for the Head Start program and require them to crack down on students’ sugar intake.

Elected leaders on Tuesday weighed in on six education-related proposals that state lawmakers will consider during the Maryland General Assembly session that begins Wednesday. The board came out against five of them and took no position on the sixth.

Two of the proposals opposed by the board dealt with sugar in school meals. Both would mandate that local education officials craft a plan for reducing students’ sugar consumption, and one would also force counties to form workgroups to study the issue.

Montgomery County Public Schools already considers sugar levels when planning meals, although no rigid limits are in place, legislative aide Patricia Swanson told the board. Some added sugars are in yogurt and chocolate, and the sweetness helps entice students to eat or drink dairy products, she said. Syrup is also served with pancakes and French toast.

School board member Jill Ortman-Fouse said she supports the overall goal of reducing sugar in school food, but believes the issue should be handled at a local level by members of the MCPS wellness committee. 

The board members expressed disapproval for a bill that would give school systems the ability to buy used rather than new buses for Head Start. The proposal might send a negative message that second-rate transportation is acceptable for the program serving low-income preschool children, Swanson said.

Another proposal viewed unfavorably by the board would create an additional state reporting requirement about students who receive specialized intervention services. While the bill’s aim is laudable, it needs further examination to make sure the data would be comparable from one jurisdiction to another and that it wouldn’t create undue burdens for educators, MCPS staff said.

Board members also voiced opposition to a bill enabling students to opt out of animal dissections in class. County schools already give students this right, and the proposal would simply create an additional requirement to print out and distribute a notice to parents, members said.

The school board took no stance on a bill that would remove the state mandate for 180 school days each year. Instead, the state would require at least 1,080 hours per year of classroom time.

None of the six bills was sponsored by a Montgomery County lawmaker. 

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