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Obama Seeks Funds for a 'Well-Rounded' Education

This morning, I blogged about President Obama's budget proposals for 'STEM' education. Next, I'll turn to his plans to consolidate a bunch of discrete programs into two larger funds, one for literacy and the other for, yes, a "Well-Rounded Education." (With a name like that, what's not to like?)

First, the $450 million literacy fund (dubbed the Effective Teaching and Learning: Literacy Fund). This program would provide competitive grants to "support comprehensive state and local efforts aimed at improving literacy instruction, especially in high-need schools," says the U.S. Department of Education's budget summary.

It would essentially replace seven existing programs: Striving Readers (an adolescent reading program), Even Start (a family literacy program), Literacy Through School Libraries, the National Writing Project, Reading Is Fundamental, Ready-to-Learn Television, and Early Reading First (which was not funded in the current fiscal year).

The other new fund, called Effective Teaching and Learning for a Well-Rounded Education, would provide $265 million in competitive grants to "develop and expand innovative practices to improve teaching and learning in the arts, foreign languages, civics and government, history, geography, economics and financial literacy, and other subjects," the department says.

This fund would replace eight existing programs: Excellence in Economic Education, Teaching American History, Arts in Education, Foreign Language Assistance, Academics for American History and Civics, Close Up Fellowships, and two civic education programs.

As I cautioned in my last blog entry, these are only proposals (for fiscal 2011, which begins Oct. 1). It's worth pointing out that Congress is usually very resistant to abolishing or consolidating programs. Once created, a program quickly develops a strong and vocal constituency that will fight hard to keep it afloat. So, there's no guarantee the plans will succeed, regardless of the merits. And, the president's proposals also seem to hinge on a reauthorization this year of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (a.k.a. No Child Left Behind). Particularly in an election year, don't bet on that happening.

Meanwhile, for more on Obama's plans for teaching programs, check out my colleague Stephen Sawchuk's blog, Teacher Beat.

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