Key Policy Letters Signed by the Education Secretary or Deputy Secretary
January 29, 2008
Archived Information

January 29, 2008

Letter to Chief State School Officers (individually addressed)

Dear (name):

As you may be aware, in December Congress made the unfortunate decision to reject President George W. Bush's request and instead decreased funding for the successful Reading First program by approximately 61 percent. This funding cut will mean a decrease of (see chart for amount listed in each letter) for (name of State or other area) in fiscal year 2008. I am very disappointed because, as you well know, Reading First is making a difference in the lives of our Nation's neediest students by teaching them to read using proven, high-quality instruction based on scientifically based reading research.

In its sixth year of implementation, the Reading First program is demonstrating significant results, based on a variety of indicators, including State performance data, the results from the 2007 National Assessment of Educational Progress, studies from nonpartisan organizations like the Center on Education Policy (CEP), reports from the Government Accountability Office, the Federal Government's Program Assessment Rating Tool, and feedback from teachers, principals, and State administrators. It is also critical to note the effect Reading First has on schools that are not directly participating in the program. According to a recent report from the CEP more than half of Reading First districts reported using elements of Reading First in non-Reading First schools and in upper grades.

In light of Congress' dramatic funding cut, I strongly encourage you and your local educational agencies (LEAs) to support the implementation of Reading First by continuing to fund high-quality, research-based literacy instruction in grades K-3 to help the neediest schools and students in (name of State or other area). Please be aware that there are other Federal funding sources that LEAs may use, consistent with statutory requirements, to improve literacy instruction in grades K-3, including the following:

  • Title I, Part A, in schoolwide programs and, in some cases, targeted assistance schools (with support from the Administration, the Title I-A program received an increase of more than one billion dollars this year);
  • Title II, Part A, especially for professional development in practices grounded in scientifically based reading research; and
  • Title III, for limited English proficient students in some circumstances.

In addition, States may want to encourage LEAs to support K-3 literacy instruction using the authority in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for LEAs to spend a portion of their IDEA funds on early intervening services for students who are not children with disabilities, but who need additional academic or behavioral support to succeed in regular education. Of course, LEAs must use funds under these programs consistent with existing program requirements.

In addition to exploring alternative sources of Federal funding, LEAs may use the transferability authority under ESEA Title VI and the Rural Education Achievement Program flexibility to support scientifically based reading instruction in their schools. If you have questions about any of the options for using other Federal funds to supplement Reading First or using the flexibilities in NCLB, please call the Reading First Director, Joe Conaty, at 202/260-8230.

I understand that implementing a 61 percent reduction in Reading First funding will not be easy or painless, but I encourage you to work with the Department to find ways to continue to support high-quality Reading First programs in schools and districts. Please be aware that the Department will be providing a more in-depth Frequently Asked Questions document that will provide greater detail about how funds can be used.

Thank you for your continued support of high-quality research-based literacy instruction. I look forward to working with you to help all of our Nation's students learn to read by the end of the third grade.

  Margaret Spellings


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Last Modified: 01/31/2008