House Democrats want to put their own stamp on federal education spending by increasing Title I and other programs they favor and slashing Reading First and other priorities set by President Bush.
In the $56 billion fiscal 2008 spending bill for the Department of Education unveiled by the Democrats, No Child Left Behind Act programs would receive a $2 billion increase, with the Title I program for disadvantaged students receiving $1.5 billion of that.
But the $1.03 billion Reading First program—which the Bush administration points to as one of its biggest accomplishments under the NCLB law—would take a cut of $630 million, or 61 percent. What’s more, the administration’s latest proposals for private school vouchers and new mathematics programs would not be funded at all.
"This [Reading First] cut will not be restored until we have a full appreciation of the shenanigans that have been going on,” said Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wis., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Reports by the Department of Education’s inspector general and congressional investigators have outlined management and ethical questions involving the program.
Republicans voiced no objections to the Reading First cuts or other spending levels during the June 7 session of the appropriations panel’s Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee. The subcommittee approved the Democratic plan in a unanimous voice vote.
“If I were chairman,” said Rep. James T. Walsh, R-N.Y., the subcommittee’s senior Republican, “I don’t know that I would have made the bill a whole lot different.”
...Some reading experts agreed that, despite the problems with Reading First outlined in six inspector general reports since last fall, the program is worth saving.
The findings essentially supported complaints that federal officials appeared to favor the use of some commercial programs, and discouraged others, during the implementation of Reading First. The inspector general’s findings largely substantiated the allegations of conflict of interest and mismanagement in the program. A Senate education committee report last month also described alleged ethical breaches by reading experts who gained financially while assisting in the rollout of the 5-year-old program. ("Senate Report Cites ‘Reading First’ Conflicts," May 16, 2007.)
“The move to eviscerate the program by drastically cutting it is the ultimate example of throwing the baby out with the bath water,” said Alan E. Farstrup, the executive director of the Newark, Del.-based International Reading Association.
This from Education Week (subscription).