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April 1, 2013

Debate ongoing for read or fail

(Continued)

NORMAN —

“There is never enough money to do all we can for students,” Teas said. “But we are prioritizing our funds to the best of our ability.”

It is difficult to compare per-pupil spending by Oklahoma and Florida on their reading laws because of the timing and targeting of the spending.

Unlike Oklahoma, Florida began offering extra reading-law money only the fiscal year the law took effect. From fiscal 2003 to 2005, Florida spent $10 million each year in federal money for training K-3 teachers, reading coaches and principals, according to state data. It also set aside $25 million in 2004 and 2005 for summer reading programs for mostly third-graders, but also some 12th-graders, who faced retention, according to state data. Adjusted for inflation, the total equates to about $97 million today.

If Barresi’s requests are approved, Oklahoma will have spent at least $23 million on the reading act from 2012 to 2014 for K-3. The state may appropriate additional money after the first wave of retained students.

Florida’s K-3 enrollment a decade ago was two and a half times Oklahoma’s K-3 enrollment today.

Regrets: Teas, the Mark Twain principal, says she has seen firsthand the negative impact that retention can have on a child. Her son, Zach, was held back in the second grade.

During his first year in second grade, Zach was put through tutoring and after-school programs and had a support system at home encouraging him to read, Teas said. In the end, she decided to hold him back.

Even now, her eyes water and her voice grows heavy when she talks about the decision, which Zach’s educators supported. She thinks the retention played a large part in Zach’s not having motivation later in school. He graduated from an alternative high school and did not attend college. He now works at a call center.

Zach, 21, of Tulsa, said he takes responsibility for his education path. He wants to pursue a career related to video games.

“It isn’t something you wish on your children,” Teas said about her son not attending college. “You want them to live up to their full potential.”

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