FRESNO Calif. (KSEE) – An assembly bill that would provide funding to help low-performing students is inching its way closer to the governor’s desk and local educators are urging the governor to sign it.

Reading with confidence and joy it’s something parents love seeing in their children. Those skills are also the foundation for all other learning.

“If students are not reading on level by 3rd grade the likelihood of succeeding goes down,” said Jacqueline Machado-Austin, project manager.

Five years ago when the Fresno unified school district saw that 68% of its African-American students were reading below grade level and failing in math, the district took action by establishing the office of African-American academic acceleration.

“I think its very telling that our district made the commitment to put a department in place and to commit to funding which I think it was a great step for us because it was acknowledging that there was issues in our system with our black students,” said Lisa Mitchell, executive director of African-American academic acceleration.

The office developed a new curriculum heavy on parent participation. It includes a literacy program and more recently a summer math camp. The district would like to expand its programs. A new state bill would make that possible.

“AB 2774 will help tremendously because we will be able to expand on our reading programs so that they’re at every site. We could put more funding into professional learning,” said Mitchell.

Local educators gathered to show support for the bill which would include more funding for schools statewide to address low-performing students.

“A lot of work has been done to make sure we don’t have any students in our lowest performing group and we are hear to acknowledge that today and we have a lot of work to do particular when it comes to our black kids in our valley schools,” said Jim Yovino, Superintendent of Fresno County Schools.

Currently, the local control funding formula provides additional funding to address the needs of English learners, low-income students, and homeless and foster youth. But with statewide figures show that 67% of black students read below grade level and 79% are not proficient in math. The sponsor of the bill says changes need to be made.

“African-American students need to stand right alongside those groups we invest in not because they are black but because of performance.” said Dr. Margaret Dortune, educator, and AB 2774 sponsor.