Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Reading Isn't Fundamental Anymore

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. George Bush's $3.1 trillion budget proposal for 2009 eliminates the funding for the Reading is Fundamental book distribution program. This program, which would cost 26 million dollars next year, has provided more than 300 million books to over 30 million underprivileged children since its founding in 1966.

Instead, Bush has proposed to raise military-spending to levels not seen since World War II. He proposes $515 billion for Pentagon's day to day operations, higher than the total combined military spending of every other country in the world (and this doesn't include supplemental requests).

We're spending enough to make the Pentagon the 10th richest country in the world, but we can't spend what amounts to 0.005% of this on a program that distributed books to nearly 4.5 million children last year?

Want to do something? The RIF website has a link to help supporters email their congressman and senator.


Anonymous said...

Sorry Jonathan, but without the military outlay to keep the terrorists away, we wouldn't be free to criticize the government, or to read the millions of free books that are available.

There are free libraries in just about every town. I know I read just about every book in my small town library as a youth, and never gave a thought to purchasing a book.

Reading is still fundamental, you just might have to put out personal effort to do it.

And, I'm a big fan of your blog.

Jonathan Lyons said...

Anon - I'm certainly not saying we shouldn't be spending money on the military, but come on, you're telling me that out of the $515 BILLION on that we can't spare $26 million on reading?

The last thing I want is to interject politics into this blog, so I don't think it matters whether one thinks the war in Iraq makes any sense at all, and whether this $515 BILLION for the Pentagon is being spent on "defense" or on "attack". But considering the amount of pork in Congress today, do you really think all of this money is being spent wisely, and that $26 million can't be spared?

BTW, this $515 billion doesn't include the additional $70 billion needed to continue to fight the wars in the Middle East. It doesn't include the $17.1 billion the Department of Energy needs for nuclear weapons. Oh, and of course there's the $91.3 billion for Veteran's Affairs or the $40.1 billion for Homeland Security.

But I guess I shouldn't just pick on military spending (don't get me started on ethanol). Citizens Against Government Waste estimated about $17.2 billion in pork last year.

Can we really not spare $26 million to help children to read?

Kristin Laughtin said...

What a ridiculous thing to eliminate. Yes, there are libraries, and I fully support urging children to use them. But why not help them out a little bit more by giving them books? It may be that incident which sparks a child's love of reading, and I think we should promote literacy any way we can. It doesn't necessarily mean we have to cut all military spending to do so.

Jonathan Lyons said...

And of course, there's far fewer libraries in underprivleged neighborhoods, and it's harder to get to them, and the quality is worse.

Jaye Wells said...

It would seem reading is pretty fundamental to no child being left behind, which is exactly what I told my congressmen a month ago.

Maya Reynolds said...

My town has recently closed several branches of the library.

Thanks for this, Jonathan

Brian Jay Jones said...

In terms of the federal budget, $26 million is a rounding error. The money for RIF comes out of the Office of Innovation and Improvement Budget, which the House/Senate Appropriations Committees get to examine before they issue their initial appropriations bill, with their own funding recommendations. Last year, they went out of the way in their conference report to provide specific funding levels to a number of programs that had been zeroed out or reduced, including RIF.

RIF is recommending people write their Congressmen and Senators, but at this point in the game, I would also strongly encourage people to write to the Chairmen of the House/Senate Labor-HHS-Ed Appropriations Committees. That's David Obey (D-WI) in the House, and Tom Harkin (D-IA) in the Senate. I would bet that RIF already has a friend in both Chairs -- RIF is one of those programs that seems to show up on the block every year, and survives. (Other projects zeroed out in the same section: National Writing Project).

Ryan Field said...

A friend of mine who teaches in Brooklyn mentioned something about this to me. You're right, and I'm glad you posted about it and provided the link.

Jonathan Lyons said...

Brian - Thanks for the extra information!

I forgot that Harkin is the head of the committee, I guess I shouldn't have said anything negative about ethanol!

Natalie said...

I, too, wonder why there cannot be a little room in the budget for reading.

Anon, while it is true that libraries are free, they aren't on every street corner and last I checked kids can't drive.

I would imagine it would be hard for "underprivileged kids" to get to a library often, where having a book of their own would enable them to read at home and share it with their friends. Perhaps it would even motivate them to seek out a library for more.

Adaora A. said...

Mr. Lyons, I am completely without astonishment as well. I appologize if I offend anyone but you really can't too suprised when you have a man who's daddy paid for his entry into a top university. A daddy who went on to pay for his degree. It's nothing but a piece of paper. If he spent just a little but on children they'd see an improvement in their emotional, physical, and intellectual well being. I completely agree with you.

Anonymous said...

I could not agree with you more Jonathan, especially about the pork barrel. Why not pick up the money from the famous bridge to nowhere in Alaska, or the study of the darter fish in Texas or any of the other senseless studies or projects that have little if any benefits. And I'm all for picking up the dough for the kids by raiding the pork barrel.

We do need our youngsters to read and I'm glad you endorsed that notion.

You write a great blog.

Southern Writer said...

I absolutely did, then sent a link around to others I know who absolutely would, too.

Dharma Kelleher said...

Maybe this is part of Bush's plan to increase military recruitments. After all, if the kids can't read, then signing up to die for oil is the only way out of the ghetto/barrio/sticks. Such an amazing approach from those who claim to cherish life.

Just_Me said...

With the increase in the cost of everything from gas to food how would you expect the military to function without a raise? They need to feed their soldiers, they need to fuel the motor vehicles, and they have to pay for the electrcity. Just because they're a government entity doesn't mean they are charged less by their electric provider...

That said I'm not sure they need quite as much as is being offered.

And since there are people in this country (where is Oprah?) who make enough to fund that budget privatley the reading program isn't what we need to cut.

I agree most that money in the defense budget is going to line some Congressmans pocket. They get rich, the military gets blamed, and some child doesn't get a book.

The good news is that most cities have charities that help donate books. You can take books you've bought and are finished with to Goodwill or the library. There are ways to keep books moving into homes of people that need them : )

joycemocha said...

For those who assert that there are public libraries readily available in small towns, may I just ask you to Google Jackson County, Oregon Libraries?

That's right. The library system down there is shut down. Period. No separate city libraries, perhaps paltry school libraries.

As a teacher, I strongly support initiatives such as Reading Is Fundamental. But I also realize that just about anything associated with education is an unfunded Federal mandate.