Senate leader Phil Berger charged education leaders with planning to divert to state jobs money that was meant to help students read, but the state superintendent said that isn’t so.
In a Monday letter to state Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson and State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey, Berger said the state Department of Public Instruction’s spending plan ignores the legislature’s intent.
The state budget called for $2.5 million in DPI reductions. The budget has an additional $3.7 million going to implement the Read to Achieve law, which requires that most third-graders read proficiently before they’re promoted.
The $3.7 million was to go to the local districts for tutors, Berger said, but DPI is using it to maintain its “bloated bureaucracy.” The department plans to disguise the spending by relabeling existing jobs and work, he wrote.
Atkinson said in an interview that Berger is mistaken. The State Board has already approved the money going to districts for reading tutors, she said. The spending for summer reading camps is on this week’s board agenda.
DPI job cuts total $1.74 million, equal to about 19 jobs, she said. Cuts to the operations budget come to about $763,000.
“I’m sorry that Senator Berger has misunderstood about the State Board of Education taking any action that would involve the Excellent Public Schools Act,” she said. “I share his goal that we get all of our third-graders reading well.”
Berger wrote that the State Board may have discussed the issue in a closed session, in violation of the state’s Open Meetings Law.
Berger asked for correspondence between DPI and the Office of State Budget and Management, meeting minutes, and the State Board’s budget proposal.
Atkinson said she disagreed with Berger’s assertion, because the board can talk about personnel issues behind closed doors. If Berger knew the details of the discussion, Atkinson said, he would feel comfortable that the board action was lawful.