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James to focus on early education

Good reading skills will prevent dropouts says Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim James.

“K, 1, 2, 3. That’s the foundation,” James said. “You’re never going to truly improve public education across the board until we get to these children.”

James visited with members of the editorial board of The Selma Times-Journal Monday afternoon.

James said there are about 700,000 students in kindergarten through third grade in Alabama. Of those students, one-third or about 60,000 students are classified as at-risk or receive free lunches. James wants to target these students with a reading program designed to ensure students read at grade level when they leave third grade. He said students who read at grade level are more likely to graduate from high school.

To accomplish this goal, James proposed implementing a tutoring program through state universities and college. Every college freshman would be required to spend four to six hours a week during one semester tutoring kindergarten through third-grade students.

“The idea is that these children are getting the additional repetition,” James said.

The Reading Corps would be much more cost efficient than hiring teacher’s aides, with gasoline as the only expense, he said. James said the elementary students benefit, as well as the college students who share in the reward of giving back to local communities.

“We give them the tools, and we give them the opportunity,” James said. “That’s how you fix the problem.”

James, who lives in Greenville, ran for governor in 2002. He finished third in the Republican primary, receiving nine percent of the vote. James is the son of former Gov. Fob James Jr., and he is partner in Baldwin County Bridge Company, which built the Foley Beach Express toll road in 2000.