Over one million Georgians lack literacy, according to the National Center for Education. However, state officials think federal aid will change that.
The Georgia Department of Education has received a nearly $180 million federal Comprehensive Literacy State Development Grant to help tackle the issue.
“Reading is an essential part of all other educational attainment; literacy is the key that unlocks the door to a lifetime of learning,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said in a statement.
Early literacy skills have lasting impacts on students’ academic futures, according to Hanover Research. The U.S. Department of Education’s Comprehensive Literacy State Development program focuses on improving literacy rates in children. Officials said the funds will help the state edify its current efforts.
“Being awarded nearly $180 million through a competitive federal grant process shows that Georgia’s literacy efforts are viewed as strong, sustainable, and worthy of investment. The students of our state deserve no less,” Wood said.
Georgia will receive the funds tailored for its initiative, Literacy for Learning, Living, and Leading in Georgia, over five years. About 96 percent of the grant will cover the program for school districts and other care providers for infants and students up to the 12th grade. Disbursement to individual schools will depend on the poverty level, literacy rates and performance.
Boosting education was one of Gov. Brian Kemp’s campaign promises, he said last week.
“In the first nine months of my administration, we made historic strides in education," Kemp said in a statement. "We raised teacher pay, invested in school security, increased funding for mental health services, and fully-funded public education for the second year in a row.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has proposed cutting federal funding of literacy programs. She suggested trimming $200 million from current initiatives.
DeVos said literacy efforts should be the responsibility of the state and local governments. They are duplicated and are ineffective, she said.
“Continued federal funding to try to fix problems has not yielded the results we've all hoped for,” DeVos told members of Congress in April. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed budget, $190 million would be cut from the Comprehensive Literacy State Development program.