State commits $400K in emergency reading funding to help five failing St. Petersburg schools
Five failing elementary schools in south St. Petersburg are in line to get nearly $400,000 in extra reading assistance programs under a proposed state budget expected to pass the Florida Legislature on Friday.
State Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, told legislators during a debate over the $82.3 billion budget that funding for the University of Florida's Lastinger Center is aimed at helping the five schools were at the heart of a yearlong investigation by the Tampa Bay Times. Lastinger has started a new program called "Winning Reading Boost" aimed at helping 1,000 elementary school students at the state's lowest performing schools.
The "Failure Factories" investigation by the Tampa Bay Times showed how the school district abandoned integration efforts in 2007 and then failed to follow through with promised resources for elementary schools that became predominantly poor and black. Today, the five schools — Campbell Park, Fairmount Park, Lakewood, Maximo and Melrose — are the county's most segregated and are failing at rates far worse than almost any other schools in Florida. Dozens of schools with similar demographics outperform them.
"The budget does have a specific line item just for these schools in Pinellas County for the specific purpose of the reading programs," Fresen said in response from questions from state Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg.
After the debate, Rouson said he had originally sought $1.1 million for the reading programs, but was happy to see the Legislature is at least directing $400,000 to deal specifically with the problems at the five schools.