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July 20, 2000

Illinois Schools Awarded $37.9 Million Federal Reading Grant

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan announced today that Illinois schools with high numbers of children living in poverty will share $37.9 million in federal funds to help improve reading programs for young students.

Ryan was notified by federal officials that Illinois will receive a $37,934,297 grant from the U.S. Department of Education, part of the federal Reading Excellence Act. The three-year grant will fund a variety of efforts to improve reading programs for children in kindergarten through third grade. The grants will fund courses to improve the skills of teachers, increase community and family support of reading, reduce class sizes, support early childhood programs, modernize and upgrade classrooms, and purchase books and other instructional materials.

"This is great news. Reading is the key to any child's future and one of my top goals is to make sure that children in Illinois can read at grade level by the time they finish the third grade," Ryan said.

"If children can't read well, then they fall behind for the rest of their school careers. At the state level, we've budgeted $180 million over the last two years for reading improvement programs. This federal grant will go a long way to make good programs even better," the governor added.

The Reading Excellence Grants will be awarded on a competitive basis to 15 eligible school districts throughout the state, districts with the highest percentage of low-income students and poor reading test scores. School districts must use the grants to meet four main goals outlined in the federal law:

· All children must learn to read by the end of the third grade.

· All children at risk of "reading failure" will receive individual instruction.

· All children in early childhood centers will receive preparation and support for reading classes when they start school.

· The families of children will have access to family literacy programs where children and parents work together.

Ryan praised the work of Illinois' congressional delegation, Deputy Governor for Education Hazel Loucks and the State Board of Education for the cooperative hard work needed to secure this grant.

"Education is a team effort between students, parents and teachers," Ryan said. "I'm very pleased that our government team was able to work together so well and achieve great results."

More than 60 percent of students statewide have met reading standards on state tests given over the last eight years. However, only 35 percent of the students in the 15 eligible districts have achieved state reading standards, said State Superintendent of Education Glenn W. McGee.

"This money will help thousands of students who most need help," McGee said. "This is very good news for Illinois as we continue to make Illinois education second to none.

The school districts eligible for the federal grants are:

Cairo District 1
Egyptian District 5

Chicago Public Schools District 299
Chicago Heights District 170
Ford Heights District 169

Cypress District 64
Vienna District 155

Pembroke District 259

Madison County District 12

Rock Island District 41

Springfield District 186

East St. Louis District 189

Century District 100
Meridian District 101

Rockford District 205


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