Changes in the way the federal government plans to allocate money to increase and improve literacy pose a severe threat to one of the country’s best-known nonprofit groups, Reading Is Fundamental.
Known commonly as RIF, the organization, which provides free books to needy children and has been promoted in memorable public service announcements by celebrities like Carol Burnett and Shaquille O’Neal, stands to lose all of its federal financing, which accounts for roughly 75 percent of its annual revenues.
“We are looking at having to completely reinvent ourselves,” said Carol Rasco, chief executive of RIF, which has received an annual grant from the Department of Education for 34 years.
Under the federal budget proposed for the 2011 fiscal year, the Department of Education has proposed pooling the money it allocates to RIF, another nonprofit organization, the National Writing Project, and five of its own grant programs, and instead distributing it to state and local governments. Under that plan, RIF and the writing project would have to compete state by state for federal funds.
“One of the things that’s challenging about this is that the administration keeps talking about how much it wants to support innovation and program and ideas that it can help scale up,” said Sharon J. Washington, executive director of the writing project. “But if you are an organization that has already been built with federal investment over time, what do you do?”
A similar competitive approach to awarding $4 billion in federal education grants to states has been criticized by some states, which complain that it may not be worth the amount of time and effort needed to apply.
David Thomas, a spokesman for the Education Department, in e-mailed responses to questions, defended the new method of allocating money for literacy programs, saying it would be “more likely to drive improvements in student achievement.”
“This proposed approach will give state education agencies and local education agencies greater flexibility to focus on their areas of greatest need and will be more effective than the narrow categorical programs,” Mr. Thomas said.
This is the problem with the Change You Can Believe in President. He likes changing everything - even programs that have worked for a long time.
I suppose all the ed deformers and pro-privatization people are licking their lips now that the entire Dept. of Ed budget has been turned into one big Race to the Top competition wherein only the most "innovative" receive federal money.
Maybe if RIF adds standardized tests for every book that they hand out and tracks the value-added test score improvement statistics of the people handing out the books (or the people advertising for RIF - Like Carol Burnett and Kermit the Frog), Obama and Duncan will consider the program "innovative" enough to survive in the Era of Privatized Education Deform.