School gets funds to bolster reading

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 25, 2008

NATCHEZ — At their most recent meeting, the Mississippi Board of Education voted to allocate some very valuable funding to the students of the Natchez-Adams School District.

The district was one of seven that the board awarded continued funding for the Reading First Initiative.

The initiative, funded by millions of federal dollars, is a program that concentrates on teaching students how to become proficient readers by the third grade.

Email newsletter signup

District Superintendent Anthony Morris said if the district were to have to purchase the program on its own it would be forced to spend approximately half a million dollars.

Morris said he was pleased with news of the funding.

And while Morris is pleased with the availability of funding for the program, he was concerned the funding might not come at all this year.

The Mississippi Department of Education’s Bureau Director for the Office of Reading, Early Childhood and Language Arts Terrie Johnson said cutbacks at the federal level threatened some districts’ chances of receiving continued funding.

“The funds are dwindling,” Johnson said. “And some districts were worried.”

But this newest round of funding will keep the program in the three schools for one more year.

And it was the threat of losing three years of built up momentum in the program that had Morris worried.

“We’ve had success with the program and we didn’t want to lose that,” Morris said.

Morris said while the program got off to a rocky start, it began to show success in the past two years, and the district is eager to keep that going.

But just how much momentum the program will be able to keep remains to be seen.

The Reading First Initiative is part of the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind program, and Johnson and Morris expect to see changes in that program under the Obama administration.

Johnson said while the 2008-2009 school year is funded, funding for the 2009-2010 year all depends on the President.

And while neither knows exactly what shape the new administration’s changes will take, both said they feel confident some program similar to Reading First will be available.

“I have know idea what they’ll do,” Morris said. “It all depends on the Secretary of Education.”

And while neither Johnson nor Morris knows what the future has in store, both said they’re hoping for the best.