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PRESS RELEASE

January 10, 2005

Jacob DiPietre
(850) 488-5394

MacKay Jimeson
(850) 245-0413

Governor Bush Makes Reading a Permanent Priority in Florida Public Schools
Governor recommends $43.3 million increase in reading funds

WINTER GARDEN — Governor Jeb Bush today recommended Florida make reading funds a permanent part of the public school funding formula, the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP), in order to maintain a strong focus on reading. Additionally, Governor Bush enhanced his commitment to reading by proposing a $43.3 million increase for reading initiatives in Fiscal Year 2005-06. This increase is more than 30 percent over current year funding. The Governor made the announcement at Maxey Elementary School where he was joined by Education Commissioner John Winn, Chairman Phil Handy, State Board of Education, Representatives Dennis Baxley, Orange County Superintendent of Schools Ron Blocker, Maxey Elementary School Principal Belinda Davis and Maxey Elementary School Reading Coach Julia Jackson.

"A student's ability to read unlocks the door to learning and empowers students to achieve their dreams," Governor Bush said. "Florida's investment in reading is paying off through impressive learning gains, especially among minority students. Just Read, Florida! must continue to be instrumental in successfully helping struggling readers and making reading a top priority in public schools."

In addition to adding reading funds to the FEFP, Governor Bush recommends that reading funds receive the same percentage increase as the FEFP receives annually. Also, the Governor proposed establishing in statute two entities that have been instrumental in helping struggling readers, the Just Read, Florida! Office and the Florida Center for Reading Research at Florida State University.

Governor Bush's budget recommendations increase the total reading budget to $186.4 million for Fiscal Year 2005-06. These budget recommendations include:

  • $15 million for statewide educator professional development courses and workshops as well as diagnostic testing tools to determine a school's reading instruction needs.
  • $111.8 million for intensive reading instruction, district-specific training, and research-based instructional reading materials. 300 reading coaches could be hired with these funds, totaling more than 1,000 coaches in school districts.
  • $58 million in federal funds for reading coaches, diagnostic assessments, and tailored professional development on reading research-based instruction, targeting K-3.
  • $1.6 million for the Florida Center for Reading Research at Florida State University.

"What better way to cement the fundamental importance of reading in our children's future than embed it into the heart of our K-12 funding formula," Education Commissioner Winn said. "Governor Bush's continuous commitment to reading is shaping school success and ensuring students receive a high quality education."

Through Just Read, Florida!, Maxey Elementary has received a reading coach for the past two years. Using research based programs, the reading coach has been engaged with teachers and modeling lessons resulting in rising student achievement. In 2004, 54 percent of Maxey Elementary students were reading at or above grade level compared to 43 percent in 2002. Additionally, Maxey Elementary's school grade improved from a 'C' in 2002 to an 'A' last year.

"Successful readers understand that a solid foundation in reading is necessary to develop effective communication and self-development skills. A strong reading foundation provides opportunities for many positive life long experiences," Maxey Elementary Principal Belinda Davis added.

Reading is a fundamental part of Governor Bush's A+ Plan. Just Read, Florida! began in 2001 supporting the Governor's goal to have every student read at or above grade level by 2012. Through Just Read, Florida! and the efforts of teachers, reading coaches, parents, and mentors, Florida is making progess. In 2004, the majority of Florida students were reading at or above grade level for the first time. The percentage of third and fourth grade students reading on at least grade level or above has increased from 55 percent in 2001 to 68 percent in 2004. Meanwhile, the percent of students in grades 3 and 4 reading below the basic level has declined from 30 percent in 2001 to 19 percent in 2004.

For more information on Just Read, Florida! or to view a district-by-district breakdown of Governor Bush's recommendations, please visit, www.justreadflorida.com.