SALT LAKE CITY — An Arkansas lawmaker proposed a bill this week that he thinks might help schools improve their reading scores, according to television station KTHV.
Rep. Alan Clark’s proposed bill would limit some of a district’s funding that falls under the National School Lunch state categorical funding if “overall reading readiness” is below 70 percent for students in third to 10th grade, according to KTHV. According to KATV, the fund is designed to close achievement gaps.
Districts that fail to increase reading readiness over a period of one year would be required to have employees with certification to teach complete the state’s reading initiative program.
If the district does not improve in two years, it would receive “lower level funding” and would be at risk of getting program funding cut altogether if it failed in the third year.
According to the Arkansas NSL State Categorical Funding and Expenditures Report, the national lunch program should not be confused with the federal National School Lunch Act program. The state funding is “money distributed to school districts based on the concentration of poverty in their student populations,” according to KTHV.
“It is a secondary funding mechanism that’s determined by how many kids you have on free and reduced lunch,” Clark, R-Lonsdale, Ark., told KTHV. “It’s just unfortunate that’s what (the program) is called.”
The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program providing free or low-cost lunches to children each school day. It was established under the National School Lunch Act signed by President Harry Truman, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
According to KATV, the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance has verified that the bill does not affect school lunches, but the group is still not supporting it.
"The money is used oftentimes for one-on-one tutoring," AHRA Executive Director Kathy Webb told KATV. "It's used for extra instructional time. It's used for outreach works or school nurses. This bill could cut back on some of that money if these kids are not reading ready or measuring up on certain criteria that he wants to impose."
Clark said he thinks the bill is necessary as other reading programs in the state of Arkansas have only increased performance by 10 to 20 percent, according to KTHV.13 comments on this story
He says the bill does not punish a district that is stuck at a certain level, only a district with decreased performance.
According to KTHV, the bill was sent to the Senate committee on education Wednesday. A fiscal impact statement for the bill will be required before a decision can be reached by lawmakers.
Correction: This article has been updated to provide more information on the National School Lunch state categorical funding program. A previous version incorrectly stated that the bill "would cut lunch funding for schools struggling with reading."