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When $9 is far from enough

"In a nation whose education system is among the most unequal in the industrialized world, where race and geography play an outsize role in determining one’s path to success, many Americans are being failed twice: first, by public schools that lack qualified teachers, resources for students with disabilities and adequate reading instruction; and next, by the backup system intended to catch those failed by the first."

In December 2022, ProPublica published an article about the ongoing literacy crisis in the United States. This blog post is the first in a series of reflections on that article.

$9. That’s how much the state of Texas currently allocates for adult education, per eligible student.

What can you buy with $9 these days? That won’t even get you two dozen eggs in most grocery stores. What do we think it can realistically do for the almost 5 million Texas adults in need of literacy help?

Across the United States, only around 3% of the adults who need literacy help are getting it – a figure that holds true for Texas as well. And despite our best efforts across the literacy field – and the valiant intervention of nonprofits, libraries, and other programs to help fill the gap – that number hasn’t changed in any meaningful way in decades.

While we try to figure out what’s to be done, people, families, communities, counties, states, and the entire nation are all suffering. 

"In other wealthy countries, adults with limited education who were born into families with little history of schooling are twice as likely to surpass their parents’ literacy skills. Here, one’s destiny is uniquely entrenched... If there were local programs that could teach adults the reading skills they never got, those parents could help educate their kids and get better jobs... The entire county would benefit."

It’s a sobering picture.

Shouldn’t every person in America have the opportunity to learn to read?

This blog post is a reflection on the ProPublica article, “A Fifth of American Adults Struggle to Read. Why Are We Failing to Teach Them?” Look for more blog posts on this topic in coming weeks.

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