Lawmakers Ax 3rd Grade Reading Program Amidst Budget Cuts, Teachers Applaud Decision



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IOWA  --  State leaders are pulling the plug on an effort to improve reading proficiency.

Lawmakers approved the reading initiative, but not the money to fund it in 2013. Now, instead of coming up with the cash, they're scrapping the program.

The program was supposed to go into effect this year, and third graders not reading at grade level would have to complete summer school or be held back. Budget issues pushed the mandate back to a 2018 start date, but with Republicans trying to cut next year's budget by $14 million, the program gets the ax entirely.

“This was something we thought we could put on hold until we find something better or something that might work. This is an area we thought we could do away with right now,” said Republican Representative Tom Moore.

This is one education cut teachers are actually happy about; they say the program was flawed to begin with.

“Educators have been able to breathe a sigh of relief mainly because there is very little research that backs up retention, and that there is a positive result from retention,” said instructor Lori Lyon.

Representative Moore says it would not have been fair to teachers or students to put these expectations on them with less than adequate funding.

"I'm not for unfunded mandates, and especially in education. I taught for 33 years and saw a lot of them come down the pipe,” he said.

Democratic senator Herman Quirmbach voted against the budget proposal, saying while he doesn't agree with retention, there needs to be some reading program in place now or else the state will pay for it down the road.

"There are states that look at the percentage of kids who are not reading at grade level by third grade, and they use that statistic to plan how many prisons they need to build. Now I'm not saying that every kid that's not reading at grade level is going to prison, but it's a pretty good predictor for who isn't going to graduate high school. That's a pretty good predictor of whose going to be unemployed, or underemployed, or not able to support themselves, and that just opens the door to criminal activity,” he said.

Des Moines Public Schools weighed in on the subject saying, in part, "We support the change in direction the state is taking and are pleased that a punitive model won't guide our work and decision-making. While none of us dispute the clear evidence that exists regarding the importance of students reading by 3rd grade, we do know that retention is not the solution. We have every intention of continuing to offer summer school for identified schools as planned. We will study the outcomes and make decisions for future plans beyond 2017. Providing enriching learning experiences for our students in the summer is not a new thing for DMPS so we will continue to utilize our community partnerships and other resources to support learning."


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