DENVER (AP) – An early education overhaul aimed at boosting literacy cleared a hurdle in the Colorado Legislature on Tuesday, despite concerns the measure isn’t funded and could result in more children flunking the early grades.
The House gave preliminary approval to a bipartisan proposal to revise how the state addresses children who are slow to learn to read. Under the proposal, the state starting next year would recommend that young pupils who are far behind on reading repeat their grade. By the third grade, children deemed “seriously deficient” in reading wouldn’t go to fourth grade without intervention by a superintendent.
House members debated the flunking recommendations for more than an hour.
“It is a last resort,” said Republican Rep. Tom Massey, a sponsor of the bill. “We don’t want to retain anyone.”
The House changed the bill to soften language about recommending failure for low-testing students. The House also exempted children with learning disabilities from retention recommendations and revised the wording of so-called warning letters that will be sent to parents if their children fall behind on reading and face possible grade failure.
Some Democrats still opposed the measure. Critics pointed out that schools aren’t getting any money for extensive “interventions” required for pupils who can’t read. Some also said that the state shouldn’t have a blanket policy for even recommending which pupils flunk.
“Overall, it is not effective for children,” argued Democratic Rep. Judy Solano of Adams County. Several of Solano’s proposed amendments to the bill were rejected.
The reading proposal faces one more vote in the House before it goes to Senate.
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper supports the proposal. Hickenlooper has said he had dyslexia and failed the seventh grade.
Some House Democrats supported the bill, even though they expressed misgivings about not giving schools money to enhance literacy education.
“Let’s hope to God we find a way to fund it,” said Rep. Roger Wilson, D-Glenwood Springs.
LINK: House Bill 1238
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