Massive Funding Cuts To ‘Reading First’ Generate Worries For Struggling Schools

The reading coaches, professional-development programs, and instructional materials that are the cornerstones of the Reading First program and are credited with improving instruction in struggling schools may be threatened by a deep cut included in the 2008 federal budget, officials and observers say.

The reduction of more than 60 percent—from nearly $1 billion each year since the program was rolled out in 2002 to $393 million for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1—will likely inhibit further improvements and test the sustainability of the changes Reading First has fostered over the past six years.

The cut is part of an omnibus spending bill President Bush signed into law last month. “A 60 percent cut—this is huge,” said Joni Gillis, who oversees Oregon Reading First.

Her state is expecting its funding to drop this fiscal year from nearly $10 million to less than $4 million. The program “is not going to be like it was, but the best practices, the solid core instruction, how we look at data to inform that instruction,” she said, are “behavior changes [that] will stick.”

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(Education Week 01.16.08)

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