$21m grant is for public education

The Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) has been awarded one of the largest grants in the agency’s history, a $21 million grant through the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) to boost literacy in children from birth through 12th grade. The Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy (SRCL) program will serve approximately 42,000 children across the state over three years. Oklahoma was one of 11 states to receive a grant from the program.

Oklahoma’s Striving Readers initiative will award approximately 25 subgrants of up to $425,000 each to districts through a competitive application process.

“This grant will allow us to continue to shape the comprehensive strategy of strengthening reading literacy for children birth through high school graduation,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said.

The Striving Readers initiative is part of an 8-year strategic plan promote early childhood education and to try by 2025 that at least 75 percent of children are ready to read by kindergarten.

Oklahoma’s emphasis on pre-kindergarten programs has drawn criticism because it draws funds from K-12 public schools and it promotes a “nanny state.” Some studies have shown that any progress a student makes academically in early childhood social programs is negligible compared to other students by the time they reach the third grade.

Districts interested in the program must partner with early childhood providers to extend the program through all age levels. The funding can be used for before-school, after-school and summer programming, as well as in-school literacy support, including literacy and instructional coaches, research-based curriculum and professional development for teachers. Funding is also intended to expand children’s access to media titles and technology used to teach literacy. The application process will begin later this fall.