Reading Recovery created a reader… and a writer

Education Minister Ramona Jennex’s this-really-is-good-news-considering announcement she’ll cut school funding by “just” two per cent next year masks a truth she dismissed outright last week.

“Based on this budget,” Jennex declared, “a child in a classroom should see no difference in… the education they receive.”

My experience suggests otherwise.

That’s not to minimize Jennex’s achievement in whittling costs in a system where the number of students continues to decline while expenses escalate.


The province’s initial, what-were-they-thinking request school boards figure out how to cut 22 per cent of their budgets over three years certainly concentrated public attention. Making these cuts more politically palatable.

In the end, most reductions—15 per cent carved out of administrative; 50 per cent lopped off “consultants” budgets—rightly recognize the classroom as the central education funding focus.

But Jennex eliminated at least one clearly educational-if-not-classroom program—Reading Recovery—she claimed is not efficient enough to justify its $7-million price tag.

It was efficient enough—essential—for my youngest son.

As a five-year-old, Michael had no interest in mastering the mysteries of the alphabet, much less figuring out how to put letters together to form words, sentences, stories. He didn’t need to know how to read, he told his mother. He was going to be an actor. Logic was not his strong suit.

By the end of primary, he’d fallen behind—just as school became more challenging. It was a recipe for frustration, failure.

Enter Reading Recovery.

During Grade 1, Michael spent a few minutes each day with his school’s reading recovery specialist. I have no idea how it worked, but the results were magical. By the end of that year, Michael was not only reading at his grade level, he was a reader.

As a teenager, in fact, Michael became notorious along Quinpool Road for reading-while-walking. Today, he is 26 and a writer too—a very good one, if I say so myself—with a literary agent, a book proposal and, we hope, a professional future.

Reading Recovery set him on that path.

Jennex may be right to suggest it can be replaced with another initiative that will help more children at less cost.

I hope so.

But every cut has its cost.

  1. Not to disagree but to pull back the focus and add a few balancing points. Every cut has its cost but so does every non-cut have its cost. I worked on budgets for years and there’s very little you get to cut and feel good about. It is more often than not a subjective choice between what you think is good and maybe a bit better.

    For all the knashing of teeth that went on, it seems to me school boards were only asked to do what departments have been asked to do for years: give the people accountable for the budget worst case scenarios. Whatever the political impact of the alleged 22%. the reality is for most of the last 10 years departments have been asked to prepare 2%, 5% and 10% per year scenarios. The 22% is the cummulative effect of a three year scenario. So on an annual basis it really wasn’t all that dramatic for planning purposes. Was it politics? maybe but normal budget planning, definitly and a good decision making tool. At least in my experience. That’s not to say that good decision making tools guarantee good decisions. Only that they increase the odds.


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