MONTVALE, New Jersey — On September 20, the READ Act Reauthorization Act of 2022 passed in the House of Representatives. House Foreign Affairs Africa Subcommittee Chair Karen Bass (D-CA) and Africa Subcommittee Ranking Member Chris Smith (R-NJ) introduced and sponsored the bill on March 28 and it seeks to reauthorize the READ Act as well as amend a portion of it. Now, the READ Act Reauthorization Act of 2022 seeks deliberation in the Senate. However, it is important to first discuss the history of the original law in order to better understand the importance of the READ Act Reauthorization Act of 2022 and the impact it would have on global poverty and education.
Breaking Down the READ Act
Introduced back in 2017, the READ Act stands for the Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) sponsored the bill along with Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL). One purpose of the READ Act was to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to include access to basic education under its umbrella. The purpose of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 is to promote the United States’ foreign policy, security and general welfare by assisting partner countries in their efforts towards economic development and security. The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 had many amendments over the years, with the READ Act being the most recent one.
The READ Act sought to promote basic education through programs that would respond to the needs and capabilities of developing countries to improve literacy, strengthen educational systems, promote education as a factor for economic growth and evaluate the effectiveness and quality of education programs in partner countries. One particular aim of the bill was to address educational inequality for girls and young women around the world.
“Passage of the READ Act will help provide children, particularly girls, with a quality education and empower them to improve the lives of their families and change the course of nations,” said Durbin in a press release from Rubio’s Senate website after the enactment of the READ Act. Rubio, as well as Representatives Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Dave Reichert (R-WA) who introduced the companion bill, all expressed similar sentiments about education and the importance of this act providing access to education for women and girls.
It was the president’s responsibility to improve the effectiveness of assistance through executive branch efforts, to ensure assistance aligned with U.S. foreign policy interests and most importantly submit a comprehensive strategy to Congress for FY2018 through FY2022 to promote basic education.
State of Education and Future of the Read ACT
According to a 2021 report from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), an initiative the United States engages with under the READ ACT, the number of girls completing school for every 100 boys rose from 74 to 88 for primary and from 67 to 83 for lower-secondary between 2002 and 2015. The report also shared that 56% of GPE partner countries were at or close to gender parity when it came to secondary school completion.
According to GPE findings, 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty if all children left school with basic reading skills. In addition, the learning improvements Education Commission outlined could reduce 30% of absolute poverty. It is clear that this area still requires more work.
The READ Act has also had an impact on basic education post-COVID-19. According to Bass in her floor statement after the READ Act Reauthorization Act of 2022 was passed, “in FY2021 alone, U.S. basic education programs reached more than 33.4 million pre-primary, primary and secondary students in 73 countries and more than one million additional individuals with tertiary, vocational and other workforce training.”
Passing the READ Act Reauthorization Act of 2022 is essential for continuing the READ Act’s role in fighting global poverty through education. As mentioned before, the READ Act only required the president to outline a strategy for FY2018 through FY2022. Those five years are almost up, which is why Bass and Smith introduced the READ Act Reauthorization Act of 2022 in March 2022. It will extend the bill for an additional five years and allow the United States to better tackle the goal of providing basic education programs to partner countries with a post-COVID-19 strategy in mind.
– Matthew Wikfors