WASHINGTON, D.C. — In 1961, President John Kennedy signed into law the Foreign Assistance Act, a bill restructuring the way the U.S. viewed foreign aid and the importance of alleviating poverty in developing nations. Throughout the act, the significance of providing education to developing nations in order to reduce global poverty is emphasized. The Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act (READ) was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA) as a way to expand upon the educational promises of the Foreign Assistance Act.
Although education is often referenced within the Foreign Assistance Act as a tool to combat poverty in economically developing nations, it is not explicitly cited in the act’s principal goals. The READ Act aims to increase U.S. accountability for global education and specify how it should be implemented in foreign aid plans. A report by the World Bank shows how limited education results in lower income for impoverished people. This preserves a cycle of poverty and weak economies for developing nations — exactly the cycle the READ Act intends to combat.
“Prioritizing education around the world will not only help students learn to read and write — it will ultimately help protect vulnerable children from poverty, disease, hunger, and even extremism,” Lowey said in an Aug. 2 press release.
The READ Act introduces four major components into the U.S. foreign aid education system.
- Creating new or stronger relationships with foreign countries and nongovernment institutions that already work to promote sustainable education in poor countries. An example cited in the act is the Global Partnership for Education, a fund designed to improve educational systems in developing nations.
- The formation of new U.S. strategies with the purpose of improving educational retention and completion for children in countries with poor educational systems.
- A senior coordinator will be appointed within the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to oversee the education aspects of foreign aid.
- The institution of an annual report detailing new foreign education strategies and the progress made by strategies already implemented. This report will be reviewed by Congress.
By initiating these changes in foreign aid policy, the READ Act intends to improve two key features of U.S. foreign education programs. With the addition of a USAID senior coordinator and an annual report to Congress, READ could increase the governmental and financial transparency of educational foreign aid. Through creating new strategies to bring schools to developing nations, the act could also potentially play a vast role in raising global school attendance.
“A child’s education, health, and economic outcomes are directly linked. While many of our children and grandchildren are enjoying summer break right now, 263 million kids around the world never even made it to school this year,” states Reichert on the economic importance of school attendance.
On Sep. 8, 2017, the READ Act was enacted into law. The Borgen Project has mobilized more than 5,300 emails from constituents to their Members of Congress in support of the bill. The Borgen Project has held 138 meetings with Congressional offices to discuss the READ Act.
– Michael Carmack