Senator Proposes Taking School Lunch Away For Low Test Scores


“There’s no such thing as a free lunch”… well, in some school districts that statement is thankfully false, as many districts generously provide free or reduced lunches to students in need. Students don’t need to earn their lunch; it is provided simply because the student needs it; there are no strings attached.


Unless you’re from Arkansas, that is, because Senator Alan Clark of Garland Country, AR, has recently proposed a bill that dangles the “incentive” of a reduced lunch like a worm on a fish hook before hungry students. 

Photo Credit: Arkansas Times

Clark’s proposition is to reduce a district’s National School Lunch Funding if the school’s literacy (reading) rates are lackluster.

In it’s simplest terms, the bill implies: No reading, no EATING. If those reading scores start slipping- better eat a hearty breakfast, kids, because lunch is on hiatus.

If you’re as confused as I am about the nonsensical connection between the two concepts, here’s what Senator Clark had to say regarding his intention behind the bill. In an interview with Arkansas news station KTHV, Clark emphasized that their current 40% literacy rate isn’t cutting it.

Almost 60% of our kids are graduating and can’t do the most basic thing we send them to school for well: Read.

It goes without saying that literacy is an essential element of a successful education.

We want schools to equip their students with a solid literacy foundation, and schools that have steadily declining scores obviously need to make drastic changes to raise the bar, so to speak. 

We’d clamor to support a lawmaker that wants to see children succeed academically, so Senator Clark’s main goal is logical. It’s his plan of attack, however, that confuses the ever-loving-daylights out of me, and local parents as well. The main goal behind the new proposal is:

My bill would require that a school district improve their reading proficiency by .0001 every 2 years.

Ok, great. Sounds like a reasonable ambition. Until we learn just how he plans to implement this strategic shift. His proposed bill -known as SB 349, which can be read in full here– reduces lunch funds for schools that fail to produce at least 70% of their students meeting or exceeding the state’s reading proficiency tests.

If the school failed to hit that standard for three consecutive years, ALL funding from the program would be pulled from the school.

Pretty harsh, no? Clark defended his cutthroat approach by explaining to KTHV that:

You don’t get anything important done without confrontation and taking a few knocks. Seeing that Arkansas children can read is worth a few bruises. 

So… he’s openly acknowledging that the kids in these school districts are going to “take a few knocks”, but hey, literacy is worth “a few bruises”.

What the WHAT??

Taking kids’ lunch assistance away if the school doesn’t achieve this standard isn’t an incentive- it’s a punishment. And an alarmingly unfair one, too.

Think about it for a moment. This proposed bill would automatically target lower-income students, since they typically the recipients of free & reduced lunch programs. If a lower-income school district is having difficulty maintaining a proper level of proficiency, the students that are struggling academically are again penalized by struggling economically- being deprived of a meal they might otherwise not be able to afford.

Kids need adequate nutrition to encourage their optimal performance at school, and for some kids, that free lunch isn’t a luxury, but a necessity.

How does that even make sense??

If you’re scratching your head in confusion, too, you’re in good company.

The proposed bill has already met the ire of local parents, who are appalled at it’s menacing attempt to bully students and teachers into performing… or else.

Laquita Chalmers, a West Memphis mother of four, says that she can’t comprehend the potential new policy. And it certainly hits home; one of her four children struggles greatly with reading, yet she doesn’t get the reasoning behind depriving struggling students of their lunch. As she told WREG:

I don’t understand, and hopefully that bill won’t get passed in Arkansas.

I’m confident that we all agree with Ms. Chalmers. Senator Clark’s intention to assist flagging reading proficiency results is a noble one, but his methodology is anything but. While improving literacy scores is vital, using a child’s reduced or free lunch as the bait is not only unfair, but cruel. 


  1. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. This proposed bill is outrageous! Many kids receive their ONLY meal at school. I have faith that the great people of Arkansas will kill this bill and hopefully vote this Senator out of office the first chance they get.

    PS I’m not sure if you meant the Senator is from Alaska, but the abbreviation for Arkansas is AR and Alaska is AK.

  2. I’m embarrassed & enraged that this is occurring in my state. I’m confident that it will not be passed as there does not seem to be much support for this bill. Having said that, AK is the abbreviation for Alaska, AR is the correct abbreviation for Arkansas. ?

  3. I sincerely hope and pray that this ridiculous bill does not pass! The children that are on those assistance programs are on them for a reason. Those meals at school may just be their only meals for the day.
    I can appreciate his wanting to help but I know there is a way better way to do it than to take away lunch assistance programs.

  4. This is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard in my life does this guy have nothing better to do reading is definitely a worthy cause but he’s going about it the wrong way how about investigating why the scores are going down instead of taking something that is needed to live

  5. If you researched this at all before writing this article, you would see numerous articles correcting the misinformation that this takes away school lunches or the funding of free lunches. Contrary to its name, the funding proposed to be reduced does not fund food or lunches but the free lunch program helps direct the funds.

  6. It sure doesn’t look like he’s hurting for a meal. How about we take his money away for food and see how he handles it with his fat ass.

  7. Maybe Arkansas should concentrate on improving their education system and schools instead of punishing kids. Hungry bellies only make it harder to learn.

  8. The most stupid thing I’ve ever heard of….. because a hungry child is going to be able to control their focus even more! Jerk!!! When are we going to realize we need more support rather than punishments for kids?

  9. Hey girl,

    I looked into this a little and it’s actually quite confusing but the name of the program he wants to cut funding to is just called “National School Lunch State Categorical Funding and Expenditures” and it has that name because it’s funding is based on the federal school lunch level of participation. ITS FUNDS ARE NOT SPENT ON FOOD AT ALL. This was SUPER informative. So, I know nothing about this senator, he may be a turd…and kill puppies for fun for all I know…but he DEFINITELY is not proposing taking away lunches or funding for lunches or any sort of food consequence. Check out this link for more details about this oddly named fund.

    • Thank you for posting this, because as soon as I saw the headline, I was thinking that didn’t sound right. But then again, after reading a bit about this fund it still makes no sense as it is distributed to schools with high poverty rates amongst its student population to pay for extra tutors, etc… it’s still cutting the money where it’s desperately needed!

    • Jamie,

      You are incorrect. If you read the entire document there are done districts who do use this money to help fund the free or reduced lunch program. So you can not say it wouldn’t take away school lunches for some districts. I agree according to this report the majority of the funds go to supplement learning, how hiw does taking away supplemental programs help students who are not meeting the standard??

  10. Dude your a real piece of shit!!!! Sorry…not sorry!! Haha
    You see I was once this lunch lady that paid out of pocket for every kid that couldn’t pay (oh and yes I had and still have my own 4 children to feed!)

  11. The feds provide free and reduced prices lunches. There is no state funding in our state for free and reduced lunches because it would duplicate federal spending.

    We do have a fund intended to close the achievement gap in poorer school districts and it is distributed based on participation in the national school lunch program. This proposal sets a very low bar, and while I am not 100% on board as it is now, I think it is a good idea. There needs to be a stronger program attached for improving districts when they fail to see improvement overall 2 year period.

    Again, no school lunches would be taken under this proposal.

  12. I read into it. It’s only 2 pages! The program he is amending / attacking uses data regarding free and reduced lunches to determine the amount of funding allocated to a school to pay for extra licensed teachers provided as tutors (per 100 students receiving f/r meals). If a school isn’t meeting improvement milestones, funding for tutors is reduced.
    While it is still probably a bad idea, it does not take away food from these kids. It DOES take away funding for tutors though.


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