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September 7, 2000

Ryan: Illinois Ready to Embrace National Literacy Strategy

SPRINGFIELD -- Governor George H. Ryan today applauded the release of a new national report and action agenda on literacy, telling literacy officials and advocates from around the country that literacy "is a key to the economic success of my state or any state in the 21st Century."

Ryan made his comments via videotape during a meeting in Washington, D.C. of the National Institute for Literacy. Ryan was the only governor on the meeting agenda.

"In Illinois, we have developed a coordinated program to deal with literacy issues that is a 'win-win' situation for students, their children, our economy and our state," Ryan said. "In Illinois we will count on this coalition to help us stay in the forefront of our efforts to raise the skills of everyone in Illinois who are not meeting their potential."

The report, From the Margins to the Mainstream: An Action Agenda for Literacy, lays out a long-range national plan for literacy efforts in the 21st Century. The new action plan is designed to supplement the programs and goals set up by the federal National Literacy Act of 1991. The new plan was developed following a National Literacy Summit held last February in Washington, as well as 25 subsequent meetings.

Ryan told the group that throughout his career in government, literacy and education have been top priorities and will continue to be key parts of his administration's agenda

Surveys indicate that companies planning to expand look for a well-trained workforce that is able to adapt to changing technologies when they decide where to locate a new facility. Literacy efforts help build a well-trained workforce.

"Over the last six years, Illinois has dedicated substantial funding for workplace literacy programs that help employees improve their literacy skills while on the job," Ryan said. "But the importance of literacy training is not limited to those who are on the job now. Parents who find the time and the courage to expand their own knowledge set a tremendous example for their children."

Currently, state government budgets more than $1 billion in federal and state funding for adult education and skills training, including many programs that involve some level of literacy training. Within this funding total is $50 million in state and federal money for "stand-alone" literacy programs. More than 110,000 adults are served annually by these programs.

Ryan noted that the country's governors are in a unique position to help further the goals of the new literacy report by brining the business community, organized labor, government and education together for a coordinated approach to the problem.

Recommendations within the report outline strategies and goals to help adults with literacy challenges find and keep good-paying jobs, maintain the health of their families, conquer the high-tech "digital divide," help their children succeed in school and address the growing multi-lingual culture in the United States.

A 1993 national survey indicated that 40 million adult Americans - one-fifth of the country's population - have low literacy skills.


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