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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Mayo appeals for literacy funds



By Elizabeth Benton
Register Staff
NEW HAVEN
— Superintendent of Schools Reginald Mayo dispatched an eleventh-hour appeal to Gov. M. Jodi Rell Tuesday, urging the state to restore $19.7 million in early reading funds.
New Haven receives $2.3 million in state aid for its early reading initiative. Reading funding for Ansonia, Bloomfield, Bridgeport, Bristol, Danbury, East Hartford, Meriden, New Britain, New London, Norwalk, Norwich, Stamford, Waterbury and Windham is also on the chopping block.
Rell and Democratic leadership have opted to continue with last year’s $18.5 billion biennial state budget, rather than opting for increased aid, including funding for early reading.
“We’d been told it was in the budget,” said Mayo, shown above. “We thought it was all set until two days ago.”
He added: “We will look to try to save some of these jobs. We sure will. Where do I get the money, I don’t know.”
According to Sen. Toni N. Harp, D-New Haven, early reading funding was included in the Senate appropriations budget, but negotiations with Rell have stalled. “She doesn’t want to do a new budget. She has rejected every one of our proposals,” Harp said.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to pull this thing out of the fire and have an Early Reading Success program for our priority school districts,” Harp said. “I haven’t given up hope yet.”
Rell’s office could not be reached for comment.
The bulk of New Haven’s early literacy funding pays for literacy coaches who work inside and outside the classroom with teachers, students and parents on reading development, monitoring test progress, leading professional development and coaching struggling students. Ten paraprofessionals in kindergarten and first grade, part-time staff revising curriculum and leading parent workshops for kindergarten through third grades, and a reading coordinator for kindergarten through third grade also are supported by the grant.
School officials have attributed gains in Connecticut Mastery Test scores and reading assessments to the program.
“Why start something then pull it away when it’s making an impact?” said Conte/West Hills Magnet School Principal Dianne Spence.
At King/Robinson Magnet School, preschool students are sitting in on first grade classes, a success Principal Iline Tracey attributes to reading mentors.
“I have a 4-year-old you can’t even keep up with,” she said. “We’re on the brink of success. You can’t pull back now. That would be devastating.”
Elizabeth Benton can be reached at 789-5714 or ebenton@nhregister.com.

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