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3rd grade reading bill makes its way to governor’s desk

A child reading.

Third graders who fail the state’s reading test might not be able to graduate to 4th grade. That’s if Governor Rick Snyder signs a bill that is headed his way.

The bill stalled a bit over the summer, but Wednesday it quickly jumped from the House to the Senate for a final vote. Wednesday was the last time the Senate and House would meet on the same day before the election.

Speaking before the House voted on the bill, state Rep. Amanda Price, R-Park Twp., said, “Whether you agree with it or not, literacy in Michigan still needs to be addressed and it still needs attention from this body.” Price is the bill’s sponsor.

There are some exemptions in the bill. For example, students may pass to 4th grade if they do well enough in other subjects. Parents can also petition their district superintendent for a “good cause” exemption.

Some opponents of the bill say only allowing parents to petition -- and not an advocate -- is unfair to some students.

Rep. Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor, opposed the bill, in part, for that reason. “The kids who are poor, the kids who have parents who are less engaged or not engaged at all, through no fault of that student’s, are going to be retained at a much higher rate,” he said.

But Price says, at its core, the bill is about increasing literacy rates, and the work there is not over.

“It serves as a refocusing of efforts around literacy and it has just in the course of conversation over the last three years generated bigger conversations about where we need to be,” she said.

If signed, the bill would apply to kids who will be 3rd grade in the 2019-2020 school year.

*Correction: An earlier version of this story said parents could petition the state superintendent for an exemption. Parents would be able to petition their district superintendent.