Oakland County Democratic Legislators Vote No on Harmful Third-Grade Reading Bill

Bill would redefine high-stakes testing, burden schools with unfunded mandates
Thursday, October 15, 2015

LANSING — A bill that would mandate retention without parental consent of third graders who have trouble reading passed the Michigan House of Representatives today, with legislators from Oakland County voting no because the legislation would be harmful to children, and take away local control without providing enough resources to local districts.

“I’ve heard from parents, teachers and constituents across my district that this legislation would harm kids’ ability to learn, which is why I could not support the bill,” said Rep. Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills). “Learning to read is critical, and legislation addressing reading must allow for local control, parental input and provide local schools the resources they need to make intervention a success. School districts across the state are finding innovative ways to help kids learn to read and we need to support those efforts — not dictate them from Lansing.”

The Michigan House of Representatives voted 57-48 to send the third-grade reading legislation to the Senate. The House version includes the controversial mandate that children struggling with reading be held back in third grade, despite research showing harmful psychological impacts of retention.

“Any law is only as good as the ability to enforce it. Unfortunately, Republicans refused to include language that would have allowed parents to bring a lawsuit to enforce the bill’s early intervention requirements,” said Rep. Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills), citing the Sept. 23, 2015 Supreme Court decision denying leave to appeal in SS Next Friend, et al v State of Michigan, et al. “As a result, the best parts of the bill are unenforceable and only provide an illusion of ensuring that kids receive the support they need to learn.”

“As the son of a third-grade teacher, I understand the challenges teachers face in educating kids facing poverty, and this legislation punishes kids and blames teachers without giving them the resources they need to educate kids,” Rep. Robert Wittenberg (D-Oak Park). “Kids can’t learn to read when they come to school hungry, and that’s why we need an all-hands-on-deck approach to educating them, including early childhood literacy programs.”

Local school districts would incur costs under the legislation, which fails to provide enough financial support for implementation.

“Local schools are being asked to do more with less after years of budget cuts from Republicans, and this third-grade reading plan is another unfunded mandate that Lansing is pushing without providing the resources needed to ensure success,” said Rep. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield). “If you ask educators on the frontlines what they need to prepare our kids for college and careers, mandated third-grade reading retention is not the answer you’ll hear. Michigan’s kids are falling behind because politicians in Lansing are not giving them the right kind of support they need to succeed.”

“Holding children back by law is not the solution to increasing reading proficiency,” said Rep. Jim Townsend (D-Royal Oak). “Being held back is a very traumatic experience for children, and this legislation would redefine high-stakes testing. Every child has unique needs that should be thoughtfully considered by everyone involved when making important decision about each child’s best interest. This is not something we should be legislating.”