Reading misfortunes is a legislative priority but the funding is not done | Education


Without a dissenting vote, the Louisiana Legislature approved a measure to reduce the staggering number of young students who cannot read and named it after the late Steve Carter, a former Representative himself who defended the cause.

Steve Carter, a three-term state representative who has spoken often of his love for Baton Rouge, and ran for mayor-president last year with t…

What lawmakers did not do was provide money to start the literacy campaign.

The measure, House Bill 85, won House approval 99-0 and cleared the Senate 36-0.

Virtually every group that advocates for public school issues supported the plan, including Stand For Children, Child Care Association of Louisiana, Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools, Louisiana School Boards Association, and Louisiana Association of School Superintendents.

Under the bill, students with reading problems in Kindergarten to Grade 5 would get up to $ 1,000 a year so that they could learn to read before reading to learn.

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“I think this program is about getting our kids back on track so they can be meaningful members of society,” said state representative Jason Hughes, D-New Orleans, co-sponsor of the project. law, to the House Education Committee.

But the legislation comes at a high price – $ 159 million a year.

“We have to establish this program before we can fund it,” state representative Scott McKnight, R-Baton Rouge, the bill’s lead sponsor, told his colleagues. “We hope we can get some money along the way.”

Where it will come from remains a mystery.

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HB85 says the effort is “subject to ownership,” – a legislative shortcut so that nothing happens until a source of funding is found.

The state is receiving a flood of federal stimulus money – nearly $ 4 billion in three rounds of aid since March 2020.

However, 90% of the dollars are left to the discretion of the state’s 69 school districts. “We have led the systems to put literacy first,” said state superintendent of education Cade Brumley.

Brumley said that while his ministry supported the bill, he couldn’t set up an office to manage the program without a recurring source of funds.

“The educational community hoped to see ownership by the Legislative Assembly,” he said. “Unfortunately, it worked throughout this process without ownership.”

No one disputes that Louisiana has a major reading problem.

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Only 43% of kindergarten students read at grade level, 54% of first graders, 56% of second graders, and 53% of third graders.

Experts say an inability to read in grade three can cripple a child’s ability to learn for the rest of their school career and make them three or four times more likely to drop out of high school.

Almost 160,000 children are already struggling with reading difficulties.

“The sheer number of eligible students shows the problem,” McKnight told the House panel.

Brumley has made literacy one of his top priorities.

State Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley on Monday outlined potential sweeping changes in the way public schools operate to address the shortcomings …

It’s also a big part of why he’s pushing for Louisiana’s first K-2 accountability system, including thrice-a-year checks on how kids are doing in reading and periodic assessments. performance and growth for literacy.

The state is spending about $ 200 million over the next five years on literacy, mostly funded by federal grants.

Ronnie Morris, a member of Louisiana’s Best School Board, noted last week that the state has been left behind by Mississippi, which produced the biggest improvements in fourth-grade reading on the nation’s 2019 report card.

That same year, 26% of fourth-graders in Louisiana scored higher or better in reading on the same test compared to the US average of 34%.

“It is a huge disappointment that Louisiana did not prioritize funding for this literacy program which would serve nearly 160,000 K-5 students who read below grade,” said Kelli Bottger, director of political strategy for the American Federation for Children.

“Our children deserve better,” Bottger said.

Donors remain hopeful that dollars will be found in a state’s operating budget of $ 37 billion.

“I am hopeful and very optimistic that funds will be allocated to this very worthy cause,” said Hughes. “My colleagues and I realize there is a deep need to tackle the crisis in Louisiana when it comes to literacy.”

McKnight’s bill would target Kindergarten through 3rd reading students below grade level.

Fourth and fifth graders who score below master’s degree on the state’s key standardized exam would also be eligible for assistance, including tutoring, extracurricular assistance, summer courses, and the equipment.

The legislation initially called for spending up to $ 500 per student, which would have halved the price to $ 159 million.

McKnight said he doubled the aid when Florida officials told him $ 500 was not enough to make a long-term difference.


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