It took Oklahoma lawmakers six years to "fully fund" an educational mandate that reportedly affected nearly 40 percent of all students from kindergarten through third grade — it's high time they did.
The imposition of a program like the Reading Sufficiency Act, which imposed a testing regime that required the retention of third-graders who failed to demonstrate a certain level of proficiency, is too harsh without proper financial support. The objective, of course, is laudable and necessary.
Oklahoma Watch reported this week that lawmakers provided schools with about half of what they intended to give for each student who struggled with reading. Underfunding the program undoubtedly shortchanged the schools and the students the reading program was intended to help.
Reporting by the nonprofit found students here, from kindergarten through third grade, were being held back more frequently than in every state except Mississippi. About 3 percent of Oklahoma's third-graders were retained in 2018 due to reading scores, according to the Oklahoma Education Department, and a national sampling of students show reading scores in Oklahoma declined.
It is our hope the influx of funds for this important program will turn around those numbers and facilitate its purpose of teaching our children to read. The money, about $150 for each student, may be used for teaching and teaching assistant salaries, an assortment of reading programs at various times of the day and year, and instructional materials.
It may take a few years before it will be known whether this program will bear fruit — legislators must commit to longterm support to ensure any chances of success. But studies have shown that reduced student-to-teacher ratios and daily blocks dedicated to reading improve those skills, and this funding is expected to increase both.