Kiser School second-graders work on a writing assignment with a classroom aide last school year. Dayton schools and others that serve many low-income, high-need students have a chance at sharing $35 million in grant money that Ohio will receive. JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF

$35M federal grant to help poor, special needs Ohio students

Ohio has been awarded a $35 million Striving Readers literacy grant from the U.S. Department of Education, according to the Ohio Department of Education.

ODE officials said about 95 percent of the $35 million award will be distributed directly to local schools or early childhood providers to improve literacy outcomes for children from birth through grade 12.

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The three-year grant will focus on serving students living in poverty, students with disabilities, English learners and students identified as having a reading disability.

“Reading is the foundational skill that supports all learning,” said Paolo DeMaria, state superintendent of public instruction. “Ohio is committed to improving outcomes for our most vulnerable children, and this grant gives us an important boost in those efforts.”

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It has not yet been determined which schools will receive funding or how much. ODE spokeswoman Brittany Halpin said there will be a competitive application process for school districts and early childhood agencies, likely beginning this winter.

Halpin said applications and proposals will be scored by “a series of trained reviewers in Ohio (external to ODE) with expertise in evidence-based language and literacy instruction and intervention practices, birth through grade 12.”

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Both of Ohio’s U.S. Senators applauded the grant. Republican Rob Portman said the grant will ensure that disadvantaged students have opportunities to excel and fulfill their God-given potential. Democrat Sherrod Brown said the grant is a tool toward creating lifelong learners, giving students “an upper hand as they prepare for the next phase of their education and beyond.”

The U.S. Department of Education did not immediately answer questions about the nationwide scope of the competitive grant program, but local media reports in other states showed Ohio was not alone. Louisiana received a $55 million grant according to those reports, while Kansas, Minnesota and Montana received more than $20 million each.

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Halpin said Ohio received a different Striving Readers grant in 2010, but that was only $280,000 to create a state literacy team and develop a comprehensive literacy plan.

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