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The Even Start Program in the Pioneer School District will remain in place for the coming year, school officials said.

Funding for the program will increase to $300,000, up from $270,000, for 2004-05, Superintendent Jeff Bowen said.

The program targets undereducated parents and their children, birth through age 7, in an attempt "to help break the cycle of poverty and illiteracy," according to the National Center for Family Literacy.

Cathy Medden, Even Start director, updated the School Board this week on the program's progress.

"It is anticipated that funding approval for the next year and the subsequent two years will not be a problem if our data continues to hold," said Bowen, who noted the Bush administration has proposed the elimination of Even Start.

District officials note that 100 percent of children who participated in the program were promoted to the next grade level and that 80 percent of program participants are reading at or above grade level.

Pioneer officials estimate that 78 Even Start participants, birth to age 8, received an average of 3.3 home visits per month by Even Start staffers, with an average of 1,387 hours of early childhood education offered.

Officials also noted that three parents earned equivalency diplomas through Even Start.

They also said about 85 percent of adult participants are receiving job skills and training through Even Start and at least 70 percent are employed.

Also, 70 percent of adult participants in the program have bettered their reading skills by at least one grade level.

The federal Even Start Family Literacy Program was authorized in 1988 as part of Title I of the Improving America's Schools Act, according to the National Center for Family Literacy.

Since 1992, Even Start has been administered at the state level.

Authority to award grants for Even Start is delegated to the states, although the U.S. Department of Education funds the effort.

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