RICHMOND, AUG. 25 -- Virginia Gov. Gerald L. Baliles, acting on the advice of his wife, Jeannie, named a Florida educator and a former political fund-raiser today to lead the state's two-pronged war against adult illiteracy.
In announcing the appointments of educator Stephen A. Nunes as director of the State Adult Literacy Committee, and Mark E. Emblidge as head of the private Virginia Literacy Foundation, Baliles said an estimated 1 million functionally illiterate Virginians face "a situation we cannot afford to abide."
"As it stands now, only 3 percent of those who are judged to be illiterate are being served by existing programs," Baliles told reporters here. "That's not good enough."
The appointments of Nunes and Emblidge mark the latest phase of a literacy initiative that Jeannie Baliles has championed as Virginia's first lady. Her campaign started in May with a statewide tour to promote public awareness of the illiteracy problem and to gain support for a public-private effort to fight it. She played a key role in recruiting Emblidge from his current job as a development director at George Mason University in Fairfax County and Nunes from his post as head of the adult education center at Miami-Dade Community College in Florida, officials said.
Today, the Balileses took issue with recent claims by some scholars that the country's illiteracy problem has been exaggerated, saying that in Virginia at least, the problem grows worse every year as 17,000 students drop out of public schools.
The governor and his wife also said they would eschew a short campaign of what he called "publicity, public service announcements and pleas from public officials" to concentrate on laying the groundwork for a "concerted and sustained effort" to raise state literacy rates during the next 10 years.
The public half of that effort will fall to Nunes, as the $42,700-a-year director of the state government's literacy committee. Nunes, who Baliles said won acclaim for making the Miami college the leading agency for adult literacy programs in south Florida, will have much the same role here in coordinating the Virginia bureaucracy's fragmented literacy programs.
Emblidge, an experienced fund-raiser who helped raise money for Mary Sue Terry's successful campaign for state attorney general, will attempt to raise at least $2.5 million to fund the private literacy foundation, officials said. He will be paid about $50,000 annually as the group's director.
The nonprofit foundation, which Jeannie Baliles chairs, was established to promote reading skills through a public awareness campaign and to enlist the support of Virginia businesses, volunteers and community groups against illiteracy.