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November 7, 1997

H.R. 2614 - The Reading Excellence Act
(Rep. Goodling (R) PA and 6 others)

The Administration supports House passage of H.R. 2614 if the anticipated amendments are included in the bill. The bill is consistent with the objectives of the President's America Reads Challenge insofar as it: (1) provides tutoring assistance to children who need it; (2) promotes family literacy programs to help parents be their child's first teacher; and (3) improves teachers' ability to teach reading effectively.

The Administration does have concerns that need to be addressed in the Senate. First, while some progress has been made on the issue of tutorial assistance grants, the separate authority for these grants should be deleted or substantially modified. In their current form, these grants are inadequately connected to, and supportive of, in-school reading programs and the local reading grants that the bill would also authorize.

Second, the Administration objects to the bill's new mandate on colleges participating in the work-study program. The current approach of providing incentives to colleges to use voluntarily more of their work-study funds for reading tutors is working well, and a new Federal mandate is not needed.

Third, the Administration objects to the bill's failure to include schools funded or operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in the local reading improvement subgrant provisions of the bill. The BIA educates a considerable number of preschoolers and elementary school children, many of whom live in the poorest counties in the Nation and are in need of reading instruction assistance.

Additionally, the bill's provisions relating to the peer-review panel to be created under the bill should be revised to place the convening authority in the hands of the Secretary of Education, who administers this new program, in order to ensure accountability in the award of Federal funds.

Finally, the Administration is concerned that many of the provisions in the bill remain overly prescriptive and may limit the flexibility of local educational agencies in designing their programs.

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