LANSING — Genesee County Democrats in the House came out in opposition today to a bill that would mandate retention without parental consent of third graders who have trouble reading. The reason for the opposition is due to the legislation being harmful to children, and taking away local control without providing resources to local districts.

“I voted no on this bill because of the unnecessary harm it will bring to many children,” said Rep. Pam Faris (D-Clio). “Reading is an essential skill, and learning to read is a critical step in child development. Experts consistently report that institutional retention policies are ineffective and do not help students who are behind achieve appropriate reading proficiency.” 

The legislation includes the controversial mandate that children struggling with reading be held back in third grade, despite research showing harmful psychological impacts of retention.

“Parents need to stay involved in their child’s life, from day one and especially through third grade and beyond,” said Rep. Phil Phelps (D-Flushing). “I will continue to fight to make sure parents have a voice in their children’s education.”

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

“We are sending our children toward failure if we pass this legislation, and our school districts have to shoulder that burden morally and financially. Both problems should not have to be dealt with,” said Rep. Sheldon Neeley (D-Flint). “I am in favor of passing a bill that equips third-grade students with the tools they need to read at grade level, not one that implements punishments and costly conclusions for the school district.”

“In crafting a bill to help make sure third-grade students are reading at grade level, we should look to other states who have faced this problem,” said Rep. Charles Smiley (D-Burton). “Many states have implemented programs that integrate more traditional educational interventions, involving parents and not putting the cost on the schools. Until we take a positive approach to this issue, we cannot support the legislation as presented.”