Branstad Unsure if Summer Reading Program will get Funding Next Year

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URBANDALE, Iowa - A state-funded and mandated summer reading program for third-graders not proficient in reading at their appropriate level could be delayed until 2018, assuming funds don't present themselves before 2017, according to Governor Terry Branstad.

Branstad, during a tour of Olmsted Elementary School in Urbandale Thursday, told Channel 13 he doesn't foresee the state's economic situation improving between now and December to allow for $14 million in special funds to be directed toward the summer reading program in 2017 - it's original start date. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have suggested there's not enough funds to see it through, and so it should be delayed until 2018.

"We've been going through a challenging time, last year we had the bird flu. We have farm income below the cusp of production, and farmland values are dropping," he said. "It might be possible if all of the sudden, revenues turn around and exceed expectations, that we could pass early in the session a supplemental, and move it up again. But that doesn't look very likely if you just look at what's happened to date."

The state-funded and mandated summer reading program was designed to bring Iowa third graders to a proficient reading level before fourth grade - or else they could be held back. In Iowa, 76 percent of third graders are proficient in reading; that means about one-in-four students are not where they need to be.

During the governor's tour of Olmsted Elementary Thursday, faculty laid out their strategy to improve student's reading scores, among other goals. Olmsted Elementary School is one of three Governor Branstad will visit that showed an improvement in student reading proficiency over the course of a year.

Olmsted Elementary School principal, Elyse Brimeyer, says her school has been fortunate to earn a one-year grant from the United Way to provide a summer reading program for its students. With the help of a personal tutor, students at Olmsted have had the opportunity to see their reading scores vastly improve, she says.

"We are hanging on and using the resources we have in front of us," she said. "Until we can get state funding for a program like this, we'll continue to reach out to the groups in our community and meet the needs of our students however we can."