Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development ActThe Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act, also known as the READ Act, is a bill that requires the U.S. government to promote basic education in developing countries. The bill strengthens the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to ensure that U.S. resources are used effectively for this cause. It states that the U.S. will work with certain partner countries, donors, institutions and organizations to support worldwide education.

The Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act was reintroduced to the Senate last week, by U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL). The bill moved swiftly through the House of Representatives earlier this year.

Programs created under the READ Act will have four basic goals:

  1. Respond to the needs of developing countries to improve basic education skills.
  2. Strengthen educational systems, expand access to safe places to learn and support the involvement of parents in educating their children.
  3. Promote education to support economic growth.
  4. Monitor the quality of education programs in partner countries.

The President also has three specific duties under the READ Act:

  1. Improve the effectiveness of assistance through executive efforts.
  2. Ensure that assistance aligns with U.S. foreign policy and economic interests.
  3. Submit a strategy for promoting education in partner countries to Congress.

The bill also establishes the new position of Senior Coordinator of U.S. International Basic Education Assistance within the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). This position is responsible for coordinating U.S. government resources to promote basic education at an international level.

The act requires USAID to develop a strategy to promote basic education in developing countries. The agency’s current strategy is based on the idea that education is important for human development, economic growth, and democracy. The U.S. has foreign assistance programs in more than 100 countries throughout the world, which are primarily designed to further U.S. foreign policy interests by “expanding free markets, combating extremism, ensuring stable democracies, and addressing the root causes of poverty, while simultaneously fostering global goodwill.”

Chairman Ed Royce of the House Foreign Affairs Committee gave remarks noting this strategy on the House floor in support of the bill prior to the vote. He stated that education drives economic development, security and stability. He acknowledged that there is a humanitarian crisis due to the high number of children not in school, and called for the READ Act to be passed to mitigate this.

As stated by Royce, millions of children around the globe are out of school. Many of these children are in war-torn countries and are at a much higher risk of being targeted for abuse or terrorist recruitment. Approximately four million children in Syria are not in school, and many others are straining the education systems of neighboring countries as refugees. The READ Act focuses attention on countries like Syria that are most in need of U.S. support and resources.

The Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act was introduced in the House of Representatives on Jan. 23, 2017, by Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY-17) and passed the very next day. Passing the READ Act through the Senate is crucial for providing developing countries the tools they need to increase access to basic education.

Lindsay Harris

Photo: Flickr