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For Immediate Release
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Contact:Heidi Guarino 781-338-3106

Commissioner Urges Congressional Leaders to Reinstate Reading Funding

Met Wednesday with First Lady, Education Secretary and other State Education Leaders

MALDEN - Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester urged Congressional leaders to reinstate – and if possible, increase - funding for reading programs on Thursday, following a meeting with First Lady Laura Bush and U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.

Chester was joined at the White House meeting by education commissioners of Alabama, Iowa and North Carolina, and district superintendents from New York, Washington D.C. and Atlanta. The seven education leaders were asked to meet to discuss continued support for early literacy across the country and as a group endorsed the reinstatement of funding for reading programs.

Massachusetts has received nearly $100 million in Reading First funding since the program began in 2002. This year the Commonwealth has received almost $5.5 million, which is being used to help nearly 12,000 students in grades K-3 in 42 of the state's highest need schools.

"Federal funding has been critical in Massachusetts in helping us to promote sound approaches to early reading, which is why the recent action to curtail funding concerns me," Chester said. "As the MCAS results we just released showed plainly, early literacy is an area where we need to focus more attention, not less. I would urge Congress to continue to fund reading programs as well as increase funding for literacy programs in the middle grades."

Secretary of Education Paul Reville agreed.

"Early childhood literacy is one of the key determining factors of future success for students," Reville said. "Our focus right now is to design and implement an early childhood education that will provide students with greater reading skills through ongoing training for their teachers and better use of data to identify the needs of students. We must all work together to promote early literacy."

Federally-funded reading programs focus on implementing proven methods of early reading instruction in classrooms. Through Reading First, states and school districts receive support to apply scientifically based reading research — and the proven instructional and assessment tools consistent with this research — to ensure that all children learn to read well by the end of third grade.

With federal funding recently eliminated, the education officials expressed concern for the future of proven reading instruction methods and teacher professional development currently in place under the program.

The education leaders made a general call for everyone, from policymakers to parents, to help the nation's young readers improve their literacy skills, stressing that reading is the foundation for success in all subjects and in life. All agreed federal funding is essential to improving the reading skills of students across the United States.

Last Updated: September 18, 2008
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