National Literacy Act Seen Gaining New Momentum

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WASHINGTON--Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander's recent appointment of an interim director of the National Institute for Literacy and proposed increases in funding for adult education in the pending fiscal 1992 appropriations bill will soon give life to the National Literacy Act signed by President Bush earlier this year.

Franmarie Kennedy-Keel, recently a consultant to the department and a deputy assistant to the President for policy development, will serve as the interim director of the new national center created by P.L. 102-73, a literacy law that worked its way through the Congress over the past two years.

New National Center

Ms. Kennedy-Keel, who also worked at the Education Department during the Reagan Administration, will oversee the establishment of the national center, which was funded at $4.8 million for fiscal 1991.

After appointees are named to the institute's governing board, a search will be launched for a permanent director, officials said.

When it begins full operations, the national center will support a variety of literacy projects, ranging from professional training and program evaluation to research. The center's day-to-day operations will be administered with recommendations from a federal interagency group appointed by the secretaries of education, labor, and health and human services in an effort to link federal adult-education efforts.

All of the expanded federal literacy efforts, however, will be supervised by the Education Department's office of vocational and adult education.

The national center will act as a clearinghouse on literacy resources and programs. Center officials will also work with new state literacy-resource centers and prison literacy centers created by the law. Each of those programs would receive $5 million in start-up funding for fiscal 1992 under the appropriations bill passed by the House and the Senate.

Another $5 million would also be appropriated in fiscal 1992 for the national center, Education Department officials said.

New Efforts Included

Together, the resource centers will serve as the centerpiece for expanded adult-education efforts under the new literacy law, federal officials said.

State adult-education grants, scheduled for a 17 percent funding increase to $235.8 million annually in fiscal 1992, would be used to fund several new initiatives called for under the literacy law. The efforts include:

  • Gateway Grants, new two-year competitive grants that would be awarded to public-housing authorities to establish literacy programs for their residents;
  • Statewide development of performance standards that would be used to judge program effectiveness beginning in 1993; and
  • Increased teacher-training and demonstration programs.

Moreover, the law's provisions require state officials to target federal funding to local programs that have proved effective in recruiting and teaching participants, have linked up with other community literacy and social-service programs, and have served poor participants.

The law also requires state officials to increase their monitoring of local programs that are awarded federal adult- education funds.

Proposed Regulations

In regulations proposed in the Oct. 28 Federal Register, Education Department officials also repeated a requirement in the law that school districts, nonprofit agencies, and community-based organizations be granted full access to the federal adult-education funds.

Program administrators have complained that the provision could create havoc in administering funds that were granted under previous provisions of the Adult Education Act.

The proposed regulations would make other changes in federal programs that have been modified by the National Literacy Act, such as grants awarded under the National Workplace Literacy Program that would give priority to applicants that team up with small businesses.

Comments on the proposed regulations are due Dec. 27.

Vol. 11, Issue 13, Page 21

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