Topeka In his State of the State speech last week, Gov. Sam Brownback said he wants to spend $12 million to help young students who are having trouble learning to read so that they are reading proficiently by the fourth grade.
"Passing children up the grade ladder when we know they can't read is irresponsible and is cruel," Brownback said.
Brownback's budget proposal provides $12 million for his Kansas Reads to Succeed initiative, but it cuts $9.2 million from early childhood block grants that fund programs that help children from birth to age 5.
Shannon Cotsoradis, president and chief executive officer of Kansas Action for Children, said that "defies logic."
"We support investments in literacy, but it doesn't make sense at the expense of early intervention," Cotsoradis said.
Brownback has often said one of the goals of his administration is to increase the percentage of fourth-graders reading at grade level.
Rich Minder, collaborative projects coordinator of Success By 6 Coalition of Douglas County, which receives funding from the early childhood grant program, said early childhood programs will help accomplish that goal.
"The roots of reading problems of kids who don't catch up in fourth grade often are related to infancy and early childhood," Minder said.
Minder, a former president of the Lawrence school board, said he was troubled by several parts of Brownback's speech. At one point, Brownback said the state must prioritize its spending.
"Our schools only get 54 cents of every valuable education dollar into the classroom," he said.
Minder said that figure depends on what you count as classroom expenses.
"You can work those numbers and say whatever you want. I don't think the claim is very productive at this point," he said.