Early Ed Watch's colleague Lindsey Luebchow has a great post on the impact of cuts in Reading First funding, and the prospects for restoring Reading First funds in the fiscal year 2009 budget, up at our sister blog Ed Money Watch. Key points:
States and school districts are starting to feel the impact of major funding cuts to the federal Reading First program. Congress cut Reading First funding by 61 percent in fiscal year 2008—the unfortunate result of a serious federal-level management scandal. On the ground, however, the Reading First program is producing results in many schools, and school administrators and teachers have praised it.
President Bush's fiscal year 2009 budget request would restore Reading First funding to $1 billion annually. As school districts scramble to look for other funding sources to keep Reading First programs alive this year, Members of Congress should reassure them by making a commitment to restore funding in the fiscal year 2009 budget. Congress has made its point on the scandal and should end the political games.
The Administration did make grave errors in program management. But Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has promised that the program is running cleanly, and she's fighting to restore funding to the $1 billion level.
Of course, in order to restore funding, Congress will have to pass a fiscal year 2009 appropriations bill, instead of a continuing resolution (which would maintain funding at the 2008 level for the next fiscal year). Reading First is a prime example of why Congress should work on and pass a Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill--NOT postpone funding questions until fiscal year 2010. While some states and school districts may be able to produce one year of stop-gap funding to cover the Reading First cuts, most will have to significantly alter and downsize their Reading First programs if Congress maintains funding at $393 million for another year. Continue...
Ensuring that children learn to read proficiently by the end of third grade is perhaps the most important outcome goal for the PK-3 years, and Reading First, which supports scientifically based reading instruction in grades K-3, is a critical source of funding to help schools achievee that goal. Early Ed Watch will continue covering Reading First funding issues, as well as making the case to expand Reading First to support high-quality pre-k literacy interventions aligned with scientifically based K-3 literacy programs. Previous EEW commentary on Reading First is available here and here.