LANSING — State Representatives George T. Darany (D-Dearborn), Frank Liberati (D-Allen Park) and Julie Plawecki (D-Dearborn Heights) voted in opposition of House Bill 4822. This legislation raised serious concerns on both sides of the aisle and despite attempts to amend the legislation, the bill was passed by the House on Oct. 15. HB 4822 attempts to get Michigan students reading at their grade level before they are allowed to move on to the fourth grade. However, Darany, Liberati and Plawecki are concerned that it ultimately won’t address the fundamental issues that have fractured the education system in Michigan and that the mandatory retention will cause more barriers to students.

“My colleagues and I are committed to finding a solution that will actually equip third-grade students with the tools and resources they need to be successful and integrate more traditional educational interventions with school, community and parental support,” Darany said. “Without engaging other potential intervention techniques, we are not addressing the root of the problem, and we will keep students from growing as readers.”

While both the opposing and supporting sides of HB 4822 had similar goals in mind for the legislation, the bill failed to get to a point that would reduce the number of struggling readers. There are also serious concerns that the legislation will remove control from the schools and parents, which is critical to the support and successful intervention of students.

“In 2013, Michigan was 38th in the nation for fourth-grade reading on the national assessment. As a former teacher, I will be the first to say that we must focus our attention on developing strong literacy skills in all students,” Plawecki said. “However, this bill mandates third-grade retention, which has been associated with many negative outcomes and it will hit the low-income, at-risk students the hardest. There were several good practices in this bill, such as early assessment, intervention and strong support programs. Yet it does not address the impact of poverty, overcrowded classrooms and lack of funding, particularly in schools trying to meet the requirements of a deficit elimination plan. These factors make it difficult for even the best programs to be successful. While I truly wanted to support this legislation, it is unfortunate that input from superintendents statewide and several legislators, many with education experience, was not validated through the offered amendments.”

Representative Liberati agreed that the intent of the legislation was heading in the right direction, but crucial concerns were not addressed before its passage.

“We absolutely should hold our schools, students and teachers to high standards,” Liberati said. “However, mandating retention in Lansing does not address the systemic challenges facing our schools. House Bill 4822 fails to offer local control and parental consent, and it doesn’t provide our students with the tools and resources they need to achieve success.”