LANSING — A coalition of Democratic legislators joined together to introduce a plan today to address Michigan’s literacy crisis. State Reps. Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Township), Robert Wittenberg (D-Huntington Woods), Kristy Pagan (D-Canton), Bill Sowerby (D-Clinton Township), Brenda Carter (D-Pontiac), Cara Clemente (D-Lincoln Park), Lori Stone (D-Warren) and Joe Tate (D-Detroit) introduced the Better Outcomes in Literacy and Development (B.O.L.D.) Plan, which would combat the root causes of illiteracy across the state by addressing these critical issues in early childhood. Michigan currently ranks 41st in the country in reading.

“If we’re not giving our kids a good foundation with strong literacy skills, we’re setting them up to fail not only in our education system but further down the line as well,” said Camilleri. “Right now, our state is facing a literacy crisis, and for too long, we’ve been told to accept student underperformance in reading as the norm. I know we can do better, and our B.O.L.D. plan seeks to change the status quo and ensure we once again put our students’ well-being at the forefront of our legislative agenda.”

The bills in the package would:

  • HJR J: Amend the Michigan Constitution to establish literacy as a right. (Rep. Camilleri)
  • HB 4666: Increase the reimbursement rate in the Great Start to Quality Evaluation System to encourage participation in this program. (Rep. Carter)
  • HB 4667: Expand Great Start Readiness Program eligibility to 3-year-old children. (Rep. Pagan)
  • HB 4668: Expand eligibility for the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) to include families with income up to 350 percent of the federal poverty line. Current eligibility is 250 percent. (Rep. Stone)
  • HB 4669: Help identify kindergarten students who are behind in reading earlier to help teachers address their needs quickly. (Rep. Clemente)
  • HB 4670: Increase funding to the in-home visit programs at the ISD level so that they can meet this need in their communities. (Rep. Wittenberg)
  • HB 4671: Increase funding for the Every Child Ready to Read Program offered through libraries to give educational resources on early literacy to parents and caregivers. (Rep. Sowerby)
  • HR: Establish a Literacy Bill of Rights. (Rep. Tate)
  • HB 4583: Repeal the mandatory retention part of the 3rd grade reading law. (Rep. Pagan)

“Our kindergarteners across the state have infinite potential, but too often we don’t provide those that are struggling with the resources and attention they need to achieve their full capabilities,” said Clemente. “By identifying students who are falling behind and ensuring they receive the care they need to get up to speed, we can open doors previously unimaginable for young people across Michigan.”

“It is crucial that we help our children develop literacy and language skills early on so they can be successful when they begin school and throughout their lives,” said Sowerby. “Every Child Ready to Read provides parents with resources, through their local library, on how to best prepare their young children, and my bill will allow this great program to continue serving the communities of Michigan.”

“Every child deserves the freedom that comes with a quality education. Unfortunately, we have failed to provide this opportunity to many of our youth as a result of systemic underfunding,” said Wittenberg. “By increasing funding for these essential programs and services, we can give our state’s next generation the tools they need to succeed in life.”

“Expanding eligibility for the Great Start Readiness Program to include 3-year-old children is extremely important," Pagan said. “High-quality preschool lays a strong, healthy foundation for the educational careers of children across our state. We should be ensuring all our Michigan students have access to the best education and opportunities from an early age.”

“One of the issues closest to my heart is ensuring that all of our children have every opportunity for educational success," Carter said. “Increasing participation in the Great Start to Quality Evaluation System is essential to that goal. We have seen study after study tell us that we need to increase access to early childhood education, and now is the time to take action.”

“We’ve seen in recent years that there are an alarming number of Michigan children struggling with basic reading comprehension skills, a product of our continued cuts to public education,” Tate said. “Our students have the right to a quality education and the freedom that comes with literacy; we must make every effort to provide them with the tools they need to succeed.”

“Increasing access to early childhood education is the best way to begin laying the foundation for a lifetime of learning success,” said Stone. “The Great Start Readiness Program has been instrumental in providing support for families that wouldn’t otherwise have access to the preschool programs. By increasing the income cap, we can ensure even more Michigan students can benefit from this tremendous program.”