Sen. Clark’s bill ties school funding to reading level

Arkansas Sen. Alan Clark
Dana Guthrie
Staff Writer

Republican state Sen. Alan Clark, of Hot Springs, has filed a bill that would reduce the amount of national school lunch state categorical funding if a school’s reading readiness drops below a certain percentage.

The bill, if passed, will not affect the National School Lunch Act or funds it provides. The NLSA is a federal law that provides low-cost or free school lunches to qualified students. Similar names have caused some confusion among Arkansas residents.

“I would never intentionally file a bill whose title confuses people (not my fault, NSLA is the name of the fund),” Clark said in a Facbook post referring to the bill.

Clark represents Hot Spring County and parts of Garland, Grant and Saline counties.

Bill SB349 states that NSL funding will be reduced if less than 70 percent of its students in grades three through 10 qualify as “ready” or “exceeding” on the state’s reading assessments.

According to the Arkansas Bureau of Legislative Research, NSL state categorical funding is “state money distributed to school districts based on the concentrations of poverty in their student populations.”

The NSL state categorical funding is referred to as NSL funding because eligibility for the NSLA is used as a measure of poverty.

If a school fails the requirement, it will be required to “demonstrate to the Department of Education that all of its certified personnel have completed the Reading Initiative for Student Excellence professional development on the science of reading before the beginning of the school year immediately following the school year,” according to the proposed bill.

If after two consecutive years of failing to meet reading standards, the school’s funding will drop one level lower. If a school fails to meet the standard three consecutive years, the school would be ineligible for national school lunch funds until the school meets or excels that standards.