In a speech today to the National Urban League’s annual legislative policy conference, House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) questioned a recent decision by Congress to cut the bipartisan Reading First initiative by hundreds of millions of dollars while simultaneously earmarking billions of taxpayer dollars for politicians’ pet projects.

“Pursuing the American Dream starts with a good education, and a good education starts with reading.  But instead of funding Reading First last year, Congress funded earmarks – a classic case of misplaced priorities,” Boehner said. 

The bipartisan Reading First initiative was created in 2001 to support local school districts that emphasize proven reading instruction methods rooted in scientific research, and has been funded for years at a level of $1 billion, Boehner noted.  But the Democrat-controlled Congress last December slashed funding for the bipartisan Reading First initiative from $1 billion to $393 million.  At the same time, Congress spent billions of taxpayer dollars on earmarks requested by Members of Congress for their congressional districts, even endorsing construction of a taxpayer-funded “hippie museum” in Woodstock, NY at the request of Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY).

Excerpts from Boehner's remarks to the National Urban League (as prepared):

  • “Reading First has been working for children in urban schools.  For five straight years, Congress funded Reading First at a level of $1 billion per year.  But last December, Congress cut funding for Reading First by 60 percent, to $393 million.  The same bill spent billions on earmarks that will have no benefit whatsoever for the vast majority of Americans.  There were more than 9,000 earmarks in the omnibus spending bill.”
  • "Flawed decisions like this happen every time we do a year-end omnibus spending bill.  When Congress passes omnibus spending bills, the American people lose.  This is why House Republicans last month declared we will no longer go along with any omnibus spending bills.  And this situation is a good example of how wasteful spending hurts the most vulnerable in our society.”
  • "My hope is that appropriators this year will restore funding for Reading First, and spend less money on earmarks.  In fact, what we really should do is stop the earmark process altogether.  We should shut down the earmark factory, and keep it shut down until both parties agree on a way to stop the waste and put national priorities first.”