UNION CITY, Georgia — Education is an extremely important tool in the fight against poverty and food insecurity. Providing the tools necessary to succeed in the classroom makes children more likely to achieve higher education and a career. A more educated society is a key component in helping to reduce poverty. The Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development (READ) Act is essential to ensure foreign countries have the support and funding needed to provide quality education systems to help lift the vulnerable in their societies.
What Is the READ Act?
The READ Act is a bill that was passed by the United States Congress in 2017. According to thehill.com, the sole purpose of this piece of legislation is to enable the U.S. to partner with foreign governments to “…strengthen their education systems, improve learning outcomes, and better reach young girls, as well as other vulnerable or marginalized populations…” Education affects every facet of life and the economy.
Numerous factors, from the health and economic development of a country to its track record on civil participation and its level of political stability, are impacted by education. When everyone has equal opportunity to a high-quality education, society benefits and peace and security are promoted. Therefore, the READ Act is essential for not only education but also as a vital tool in the fight against global poverty.
According to the U.S. Global Campaign for Education, the READ Act officially calls for:
- U.S. engagement with key partner countries, other donors, civil society, the private sector and multilateral global education initiatives, such as the Global Partnership for Education, to promote sustainable, quality basic education.
- A comprehensive, integrated U.S. strategy that improves educational opportunities and addresses key barriers to school attendance, retention and completion for the poorest children worldwide.
- The creation of a “Senior Coordinator” within the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) responsible for the development, implementation and coordination of U.S. basic education programs.
- An annual report to Congress on implementation of the basic education strategy and progress achieved by USAID programs
What Has the READ Act Accomplished?
In the fiscal year of 2020, the READ Act was responsible for enabling USAID to provide quality education for more than 24 million children, train over 300,000 education officials, provide assistance to more than 93,000 primary and secondary schools and provide support to over 580 higher education institutions. This is the exact reason why the READ Act is essential for education.
Have There Been Setbacks?
The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the learning and education of more than 616 million students worldwide. There have been numerous humanitarian crises across the globe, including armed conflict and instability, which have increased education gaps for girls, low-income students and children with disabilities. These are among the most vulnerable populations in society. This is one of the key reasons it is imperative that the READ Act be reauthorized.
The READ Act expired in 2022. It must be reauthorized for an additional five years to protect the accomplishments that were made prior to the pandemic and to help children across the globe. Studies in low- and middle-income countries show that more than 70% of 10-year-olds cannot read basic text. The longer any student is out of school, the less likely it is that they will return, especially in societies that suffer acutely from poverty and income inequality. According to the World Bank, it is estimated that over $17 trillion in earnings will be lost to this current generation of students.
What Has Been Done To Renew Authorization?
A bipartisan bill to reauthorize the READ Act for another five years was introduced in 2023 by Sen. Dick Durbin and Sen. Marco Rubio. This bill would enable the United States to continue efforts to improve and strengthen the education of millions of children across the globe. The bill passed the U.S. Senate floor on November 6, 2023. It is a huge step forward, and the House should pass its version, H.R. 681, as soon as possible.
How Much Would the Bill Cost?
According to a Congressional Budget Office report released on August 12, 2022, extending the requirements of the bill would cost less than $500,000 in total over a 5-year period. It does not add to the budget deficit and contains no mandates; it would be subject to the availability of appropriated funds.
The READ Act is essential for improving the quality of education for children worldwide and closing the gaps faced by girls, low-income students, and the most vulnerable in society. Helping to improve education will in turn help to strengthen the health and economic growth of foreign nations. There has been tremendous progress through the READ Act, and it must be renewed to continue the country’s commitment to improving education around the globe. COVID-19 negatively impacted previous progress, which must be protected and expanded upon so the current generation of children will have the education needed to improve their communities.
– Gary Williams