Oregon Picks Up Lunch Tabs

Oregon lawmakers have approved the largest statewide expansion of the federal free lunch program, ensuring all students living up to three times above the poverty line will have access to free meals.

It's the first time a state has offered to completely take on school meal costs, which can often run tens of thousands of dollars for individual school districts. The move is expected to provide hundreds of thousands of students with free breakfast and lunch.

The meals expansion is tucked away in tax package for schools, a sweeping $1 billion annual investment explicitly dedicated to boosting student performance. The program, which will cost the state $40 million a year, will be paid for through a new half a percent tax on business.

Gov. Kate Brown signed the school funding tax package, but it's likely to be referred to the voters to decide in 2020, thanks to Oregon's robust referendum process.