Protests Rise Over Literacy Program Elimination

Howls of protest can be heard in some quarters over President Bush's plan to get rid of Even Start (search), a 15-year-old, $225 million federal literacy program for low-income families.

"The focus of this program, of an Even Start program, is on family literacy. So not just the adult learning English but helping the child in school so that the children succeed in school, so that the parents get better jobs so that their child is living in a better situation," said teacher Haley Wiggins.

The program is on the chopping block after Bush identified it as one of 150 federal programs that should be trimmed or eliminated.

"The problem is that after three separate evaluations, it has become abundantly clear that the program is not succeeding. People are not becoming more literate," the president said.

One of those studies referred to by Bush was conducted in 2003. The Department of Education (search) concluded that Even Start participants performed about as well as those in a control group who were not involved in the program.

But Democrats were quick to criticize the president's decision.

"When the president puts forth a budget that discriminates against children, I think the point should be made to the public," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said.

Those on the front lines of Even Start programs nationwide say cutting it will have a negative impact on poor families in which English is not the first language.

"I mean, there's going to be a gap in terms of children in schools needing assistance from their parents and their parents not having the language skills to be able to assist their children," said Camille Fountain, executive director of The Family Place (search), which offers the Even Start program.

Congress is usually reluctant to cut education programs, especially when the average state grant is more than $4 million a year. But officials with the Department of Education say they know exactly what to tell lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

"Just because it's called an education program doesn't mean it's educating children, and that's what we want to do, put money where it's actually leading to children learning," said Todd Jones, associate deputy secretary of education for budget issues.

Overall education spending in the new Bush budget is down 0.9 percent. Officials say the goal is to cut fat and add muscle. It's too soon to tell if Congress will adhere to that diet and exercise plan.

Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Brian Wilson.