LISNews reports that Bush's proposed 2009 budget eliminates all federal funding for RIF (Reading is Fundamental), the childrens' literacy program that's been around since 1966 and has been funded without interruption since 1975. "According to RIF CEO/president Carol Rasco, if Bush’s budget is approved, 4.6 million children will not receive 16 million free books in 2009."
Not surprisingly, RIF's advocacy campaign for restoring federal funds has met with much success: many senators and reps from both parties have already signed on to letters (House, Senate) to the Appropriations committees urging that $26 million in federal funding be allocated.
Now, I'm a fiscal conservative, and I'm all about eliminating wasteful or unnecessary government spending. But RIF certainly doesn't fall under either of those two categories in my book (no pun intended). Want some pork? Here's some for starters.
I remember the RIF program very fondly from my elementary school days (I was pretty biblio-acquisitive then too - I know you're all shocked to hear that); getting a free book was about the coolest thing imaginable. My classmates and I looked forward to the occasions when we got to troop to the library and choose a book from the RIF-racks, and I recall it always being an extremely tough decision (I was probably always the last one still standing there with two books in my hands trying desperately to decide between them). Picking a book was very rarely the end, though: it was usually the case that the author had written other books, and once the original RIF-choice had been devoured it was back to the library to find the rest.
Of course this is all about priorities. And of course I - as a bibliophile, advocate of reading and particularly an advocate of children reading - am going to support funding for RIF, and libraries, &c. To me, it's a no-brainer.