Claims of government overreach impacting the sale of snow cones at after school fundraisers have been disputed by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.

Vowing to fight against the “intrusion into local control,” Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas ordered exemptions for all fundraisers held by traditional public schools and charter schools.

The action stems from an incident in which a fund-raiser was told they could not sell snow cones after school unless they were allowed on a list of snacks approved by the federal government.

However, USDA Food and Nutrition Service Western Regional Administrator Jesus Mendoza says that states are free to allow fundraisers that don’t meet the healthy standards if they choose.

“The fact of the matter is, states have always had complete authority to set policies on bake sales and other fundraisers that work for them,” he said.

Arizona Sen. Debbie Lesko, who brought the snow cone debacle to Douglas’ attention and is now pursuing legislation to protect after school fundraising efforts, said the exemption is only allowed if the state’s chief of schools signs off on it — something that former superintendent John Huppenthal refused to do.

“That’s why I said heck, I’d like to put in statute that the superintendent of public instruction shall grant waivers no matter who is in office,” Lesko said.

The refusal to issue waivers has impacted PTAs that tried to sell other items like Smencils — scented pencils — but were not successful, Lesko said.

The bill passed the Senate Health Committee 6-1 with Sen. David Bradley voting no. It will now move on to the rules committee.

Education writer for #ThisIsTucson. Mom of one.