Reading is one of the key skills a child learns in elementary school, but some children need extra help to acquire this fundamental skill.
Years ago when California’s schools were funded at a higher level by the state, there used to be reading specialists to help those children who were struggling. However, as school funding decreased over the years, reading specialists were eliminated from the schools. As a result, parents of students who couldn’t read at grade level either had to tutor their children themselves or pay for private tutoring. In some cases, the District placed students who were reading far below grade level in the District’s Special Education program.
Roosevelt Elementary School PTA President John King reminded the SMMUSC School Board at its August 21 meeting that for the past seven years students who were struggling with reading at Roosevelt were given extra help by reading specialists who were funded either from an outside foundation, local corporations, and/or the school’s PTA. When the PTA saw how beneficial the program was but realized they couldn’t financially sustain it any longer, they appealed to the School Board to step in. He applauded SMMUSC School unanimous decision that night to fund the elementary literacy intervention program for the 2008-2009 school year but cautioned them that to be really effective the program needs to become a permanent part of the School District.
Another Roosevelt parent, Rochelle Fanali told the Board “it’s too important of a program to be at the mercy of PTA fundraising efforts and other patchwork fundraising efforts. I would urge that a fully funded literacy and reading intervention program become a top priority for the District.”
This academic year’s program will fund 3.65 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) positions at a cost of $292,000 which will come from the District’s General Fund. The program will target elementary students who scored either “Below Basic” or “Far Below Basic” on the state’s annual California Standards Test (CST).
Superintendent Tim Cuneo mentioned that this program is “only the beginning” and emphasized that it “starts to align the budget with [the District’s] priorities.” According to Cuneo, the funds will come from adjustments to other areas of the District’s budget.
In other action, the Board approved an increase in 2.25 FTEs to add three six-hour Instructional Assistant-Intensive Behavior Intervention positions to the District’s Special Education Department. This will be at a cost of $98,115 to the District’s 2008-2009 budget.
In the past, students needing this type of intervention received it from private agencies with the District paying the costs for these services. Board member Kathy Wisnicki noted that the District was “strengthening our internal capacity by doing this” and by bringing services in-house, thus saving money.