$71 million in U.S. funds coming to Nevada for literacy programs

Childhood literacy will receive a $71 million helping hand in Nevada, Superintendent of Public Schools Keith Rheault announced Friday.

The U.S. Department of Education awarded the state $14.3 million for the first year of its Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy grant and will make additional annual payments for four more years. The money will be used for student literacy programs from pre-kindergarten through high school.

Clark County School District, which teaches more Nevada students than all other 16 districts combined, will receive the majority of the grant but not an amount proportionate to its student population.

The district teaches 72 percent of all Nevada students but will receive 59.5 percent of the grant money. The district will be given $16.4 million over the first two years.

Clark County will use the money to place literacy coaches in schools and to run summer reading academies and other literacy programs in public libraries, spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson said.

Although the district is struggling to fill a $29 million deficit next school year because of an unsettled contract dispute with the teachers union, it can't use the money to fill that hole or any holes in its budget. It must be used for literacy programs.

The union, Clark County Education Association, contends that teachers shouldn't have to take a pay freeze in 2011-12 or 2012-13 that would save the district $29 million a year. Fulkerson emphasized that the grant money cannot be used to pay teachers, only literacy coaches.

Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at tmilliard@review journal.com or 702-383-0279.