Legislators have brought forward legislation that would infuse additional funding into the Minnesota Reading Corps program. The bills were among the legislation reviewed last Tuesday by the House Education Finance Committee for possible inclusion in Chair Jenifer Loon’s future education omnibus bill. The other bills are related to school readiness and home visiting for parent education.

Rep. Anna Wills (R-Apple Valley) and Rep. Connie Bernardy (DFL-Fridley) have nearly identical legislation — HF568 and HF674, respectively — that would appropriate more than $9 million in each of the next two years to the Minnesota Reading Corps program.

Sen. Susan Kent (DFL-Woodbury) sponsors SF607, the companion to Wills’ bill. It awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee. Bernardy’s bill has no Senate companion. The Bernandy bill would appropriate $9.08 million in 2016 and $10.9 million in 2017.

About the Program

Currently about 1,000 Minnesota Reading Corps tutors work in more than 700 school sites and early learning centers throughout Minnesota and received $4.38 million per year for the 2014-15 biennium.

Minnesota Reading Corps literacy tutors provide literacy training to children who range from three years old to third grade. The Minnesota Reading Corps is a program of ServeMinnesota, the statutorily designated recipient of federal AmeriCorps funds. The program combines the state grant money with federal money and provides the tutors with a living allowance, health insurance, child care if needed, and a post-service educational award, which may be used for higher education costs or to repay student loans.

Since 2004, ServeMinnesota programs have been encouraged to channel participants into tutoring and other children’s literacy programs.

The Impact

Although some individuals who testified about the success of the program often relied on anecdotal tales of success, others added quantifiable context. According to a series of studies commissioned by education data analyst David Heistad, the Minnesota Reading Corps program saves about $9 million annually in special education costs. Heistad said data suggests that students participating in the program are nearly three times less likely to be referred to special education because of the strides the program has helped them make in developing their reading skills.

Committee member Rep. Peggy Bennett (R-Albert Lea) mentioned she hopes to see more of these jobs in rural Minnesota as most Reading Corp positions are filled in the Metro area.