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The Obama administration’s plan for renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act would consolidate more than a dozen learning-related programs into three competitive funding streams focused on literacy; the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM; and a catchall category dubbed a “well-rounded education.”
But a variety of organizations, plus some Democratic and Republican lawmakers, oppose replacing programs that support such activities as arts education, the provision of books to needy children and families, and the teaching of American history.
In its ESEA blueprint, the administration highlights what it says is a need for higher academic standards and for “instructional supports, high-quality professional development, and teaching and learning materials aligned with those standards. ”
The administration is also proposing to create a program to provide competitive grants to “increase access to accelerated learning opportunities for students.”
A new literacy fund would consolidate six existing programs into a $450 million fund for fiscal 2011, according to the administration’s budget request. States that pursued the money would be required to devise “comprehensive, evidence-based pre-K-12 literacy plans,” with an emphasis on serving “high-need districts,” the ESEA blueprint says.
The “well-rounded education” fund would consolidate nine programs—including Arts in Education, Foreign Language Assistance, and Teaching American History—into a $265 million pot for fiscal 2011. The fund would provide competitive grants to states, “high need” districts, and nonprofit partners to strengthen teaching and learning in such subject areas as the arts, foreign languages, history and civics, financial literacy, and environmental education.
Richard M. Long, the director of government relations for the International Reading Association, is pleased by some aspects of the proposed literacy fund, especially its emphasis on professional development. But he criticized the consolidation plans. He noted, for example, that two programs in the cross hairs, the National Writing Project and Reading Is Fundamental, provide money directly to national organizations that in turn work across the country.
“To say that they can apply state by state [for that funding] is not a viable option,” he said. “It just destroys the idea of having national impact.”
A version of this article appeared in the March 31, 2010 edition of Education Week as Funding Would Target Literacy, STEM, ‘Well-Rounded Education’