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February 15, 2002

CONTACT: Elizabeth Hirst
(850) 488-5394

Lt. Governor Brogan, Secretary Horne Attend U.S. Department of Education's "Reading Leadership Academy"
Academy Gathers National Education Leaders to Coordinate "Reading First" Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Lt. Governor Frank Brogan, joined by Florida Secretary of Education Jim Horne, today attended U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige's "Reading Leadership Academy." The academy, which gathered key education leaders and policymakers from around the nation, is designed to equip states with information and resources for a swift, successful implementation of President's Bush's "Reading First" program.

"This has been a wonderful forum for discussing methods of improving student reading proficiency, particularly with the input of education leaders from all over the nation," said Lt. Governor Brogan. "The state of Florida is committed to improving student reading achievement, and we look forward to implementing programs such as the President's that value reading as the foundation of all learning."

"We are very excited to be here, and be a part of such a comprehensive effort to improve student reading achievement among all children," said Secretary Horne. "The President's 'Reading First' program, with its emphasis on proven methods of instruction and building professional development of teachers, will be a tremendous addition to the reading initiative we are focusing on in Florida."

The Bush/Brogan administration believes that reading is the most powerful skill a child can learn, as it influences success in school and improves the overall quality of life. The unequivocal goal is for all students in Florida to be able to read on grade level or higher by fourth grade and to continue reading on grade level or higher throughout their school years. Combined with federal funds made available through the Reading First initiative, the Governor is recommending that next year we spend more than $50 million in state and federal funds to enhance reading in kindergarten through 8th grade. This money will go toward professional development for teachers and innovative programs for students that are aimed at meeting our reading goals.

The Florida Department of Education is evaluating the effectiveness of current reading programs to identify the programs that are most effective at improving reading, as a part of a statewide reading initiative announced last fall by Governor Jeb Bush. The Governor signed an Executive Order on September 7, 2001 establishing the "Just Read, Florida!" initiative, which directed the Florida Department of Education to work with local school districts, educators, parents and community members to review current reading programs and make recommendations on reading standards, effective strategies and reading course requirements. A final report is due by the end of February.

Earlier this month, the Governor also announced his supplemental budget recommendations that included an additional $8 million for "Just Read, Florida!" which brings the total funding for the program to $10 million in state funds for grades 4-8 and $42 million in federal funds for grades K-3. $2 million are also provided to the Assessment and Evaluation budget for the continuation and expansion of early diagnostic reading for all K-3 children.