California’s Fast-Food Minimum Wage Hike Could Spell Trouble For Public Schools

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Robert Schmad Contributor
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Two policies backed by Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom could place serious strain on California’s already fiscally unhealthy public schools.

California’s new minimum wage law, which took effect Monday, guarantees a wage of at least $20 an hour for workers at fast food chains with 60 or more locations across the country, The Associated Press reported. The new law, however, does not apply to food service workers in the state’s public schools, forcing them to compete in a more expensive labor market just as schools are preparing for an increase in demand for food workers due to the state’s new universal free lunch program.

California became the first state to offer free lunches to public school students, regardless of family income, beginning in the 2022 school year, ABC 7 reported. The state’s department of education projects that the universal free lunch program will increase demand for school lunches by more than 70 million meals in 2024, AP reported. (RELATED: California School District Could Shell Out Over $100,000 To Give Students ‘Anti-Racist’ Trainings)

Some school districts are bracing for the new policy environment by offering raises to their food service workers and hiring more.

The Sacramento Unified School District, for instance, increased wages for its food service workers by 10% last year, in anticipation of the new minimum wage law, AP reported. Workers in the district will get another 6% raise in July.

San Luis Coastal Unified, meanwhile, doubled its food staff in response to the increased demand for free meals, according to AP.

California Governor Gavin Newsom attends a black-tie dinner for US governors and their spouses following the National Governors Association meetings in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 24, 2024. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

(Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

Not all school districts have the resources to respond to the new labor market.

“We just don’t have the increase in revenue to be able to provide additional funding for staff,” the assistant superintendent of business services of the Lynwood Unified School District in Los Angeles County told AP.

A number of large school districts in California are facing sizable budget woes, compromising their ability to spend more on food service labor.

The San Diego Unified School District faces a $94 million budgetary shortfall, Santa Barbara‘s school district is enacting sweeping layoffs in response to budgetary issues and San Francisco public schools are operating at a $420 million deficit.

California itself is also facing a nearly $38 billion budget deficit, according to AP.

The California governor’s office did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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