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Revamped third grade reading bill gets good reviews at first hearing

A child reading.

A bill to improve third graders’ reading skills in Michigan is winning support from Democrats and some school groups.

The bipartisan bill differs quite a bit from controversial legislation that died last year. That bill would have forced schools to prevent kids who fail a state reading test from advancing to the fourth grade.

Supporters of the new bill say it emphasizes early intervention for kids who can’t read instead of holding kids back.

“I do think that this bill is completely different than the approach that was taken last term. And I’m excited about it,” said state Rep. Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor, who is co-sponsoring the legislation.

After a committee hearing on House Bill 4822 Thursday morning, groups that blasted the previous legislation also praised the direction the issue has taken.

“It’s taken the focus off holding kids back and put it on making sure that every child has the opportunity to be covered by and benefit from a really strong and researched-based intervention system,” said Steve Norton, executive director of Michigan Parents for Schools.

But Norton says he still has some concerns about the bill. He’s not convinced the state will attach adequate new funding to make sure schools can carry out the new measures.

The state budget that takes effect next month includes about $30 million for the early reading initiative. Norton says he’s not convinced that will be enough.

State House Education Committee Chair Rep. Amanda Price, R-Park Twp. – who is the bill’s main sponsor – says she hopes to hold a vote on the bill next week or the following week.

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