Tulsa Public Schools' ' Even Start' program may get cut

Thursday, February 10th 2005, 11:13 am
By: News On 6

Millions of dollars in federal budget cuts threaten a Tulsa school program. Even Start, a family literacy program, is on the chopping block.

President George Bush wants to slash the program's funding because he says it doesn't work. But News on 6 reporter Ashli Sims says Tulsa Even Start organizers disagree. Two years ago, Bertha Parra couldn't read with her daughter. She couldn't even speak English. “I went to stores and people would talk to me and I would smile and just say yeah yeah cause I couldn't answer and I felt so bad.”

That's when Parra decided she needed to go to school and she found Even Start. Even Start program coordinator Cindy Lantz: "The goal of Even Start is to break the whole cycle of illiteracy, especially where it’s tied to poverty." Even Start aims to educate the whole family and they offer adult education, parenting classes, as well as early childhood programs.

Through Even Start, Bertha Parra learned English, got her GED, and a job with Tulsa Public Schools. "No it was not hard you just come to school like a kid, every day and learn new things. But I love to learn new things, so it was wonderful to come to school." But Even Start might not be around much longer. President Bush has eliminated the program's funding in his proposed 2006 budget. He says three studies prove the program doesn't work.

Even Start advocates say the last study used data from 2001 and did not include recent reforms. Cindy Lantz: "we feel like if you want to assess how Even Start is doing you need to look at how we're doing now what we were doing four years ago."

Bertha Parra sees the program's benefits in her 7-year-old daughter, Gisselle. "She was doing bad in first grade. And then I took the advice from the parents and teachers and I think she's doing better, a lot a better."

Even Start serves 120,000 students and adults around the country. The national program costs more than $250-million.