For Immediate Release
January 17, 2023
Contact: Chantal Fuller, Communications Director
Councilmember Christina Henderson Introduces Legislation to Benefit Students from Pre-Kindergarten Through College
Washington, DC- Today, Councilmember Henderson announces three pieces of legislation that impacts DC students from pre-kindergarten through college: the Universal Free School Meals Act of 2023, the Out of School Time Special Education Inclusion and Standards Amendment Act of 2023, and the New Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights Amendment Act of 2023.
First, the Universal Free School Meals Act of 2023 provides for free universal school breakfast, lunch, and after-school snacks to students in public, public charter, and nonprofit private schools in the District of Columbia that participate in the National School Lunch Program beginning in school year 2023-2024. Federal rules that made free school meals available to all students during the pandemic expired last year.
“The research on the benefits of having access to nutritional school meals is very clear. Food insecurity among children not only has developmental and behavioral implications, but academic ones as well. No student in the District should face a barrier to access to breakfast and lunch at school,” noted Councilmember Henderson. “This bill, combined with my Give SNAP A Raise legislation that the Council passed during Council Period 24, will both improve health outcomes for individuals and families with children.”
“We are thrilled about the continued momentum and political will to make free school meals for all children a permanent reality in our nation’s Capital. This act is critical to ensuring hunger is kept at bay for thousands of students in the District of Columbia and that they have access to the healthy food they need to grow and succeed inside and outside the classroom. We thank Councilmember Henderson for introducing this critical piece of legislation,” said LaMonika Jones, Interim Director of D.C. Hunger Solutions.
The Universal Free School Meals Amendment Act of 2023 was co-introduced by Councilmembers Zachary Parker, Robert C. White, Jr., Charles Allen, Vincent C. Gray, Matthew Frumin, Brooke Pinto, and Brianne K. Nadeau.
The second bill, the Out of School Time Special Education Inclusion and Standards Amendment Act of 2023 requires the Office of Out of School Time Grants and Youth Outcomes and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (“OSSE”) to develop standards to train or recruit out of school time (“OST”) providers for students with Individualized Education Programs (“IEPs”). Approximately one out of every five students in the District has a disability, but there are not guidelines or supports in place to ensure these young people have access to OST programs whether it be after school care or summer camps.
“Out of school time programming enriches students’ lives, opening doors to learning in new ways and exploring the world around them. But there are currently real impediments to equitable access to these programs for all students,” remarked Councilmember Henderson. “Expanding opportunities for children with IEPs to learn and play outside of school is essential to foster strong communities, ensure students’ full participation in recreational programs, and make the District a leader in accessible OST programming.”
The Out of School Time Special Education Inclusion and Standards Amendment Act of 2023 was co-introduced by Councilmembers Robert C. White, Jr., Janeese Lewis George, Charles Allen, Vincent C. Gray, Matthew Frumin, Brooke Pinto, and Brianne K. Nadeau.
Finally, the New Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights Amendment Act of 2023 would protect borrowers in the District of Columbia in several ways, including adding affirmative protections for student loan borrowers, prohibiting unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts and practices, adding a private right of action under existing DC consumer protection law, and requiring the creation of a revised Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights by October 1, 2024.
In DC, 116,000 student loan borrowers collectively owe $7.5 billion in student loan debt, with the average balance exceeding $64,000. These borrowers owe more than any other state, carrying typical debt loads of $20,000 higher than the national average. DC established a Student Loan Ombudsman position to help residents navigate the complexities and sometimes unfair practices of student loan companies. This bill would add additional consumer protections to aide that work.
“Nearly 1 in 4 District residents over the age of 24 bear the burden of student loan debt. The burden of student debt affects District residents’ ability to buy homes, start families, and save for retirement,” stated Councilmember Henderson. “With changes to the federal student loan program looming, it’s imperative that DC borrowers have maximum protection from deceptive practices by lenders and a right of action for inappropriate behavior.”
The New Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights Amendment Act of 2023 was co-introduced by Councilmembers Kenyan R. McDuffie, Robert C. White, Jr., Charles Allen, Brooke Pinto, Brianne K. Nadeau, Janeese Lewis George, and Matthew Frumin. This bill was introduced last Council Period and had a hearing.