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Early reading bill falls short in state House after seven-hour session

Michigan State Capitol picture

A bill meant to improve early literacy in Michigan has hit a snag in the state House.

House leaders gave up on holding a vote on House Bill 4822 after trying for more than seven hours to gain enough support.

Some lawmakers are concerned about requiring schools to hold back third graders who are not proficient in reading - even if they’re making progress and are “doing all the right things.”

The bill’s sponsor says students should not be promoted if they don’t have the skills to succeed after third grade.

“You still need to – when you get into fourth grade – be able to read to learn. And if you’re not there yet, it’s going to be more difficult,” said state Rep. Amanda Price (R-Holland).

Price did not seem discouraged about the bill’s prospects after it failed to move forward on Wednesday. She still hopes the House will hold a vote before the end of the week.

But she admits lawmakers still have a lot of questions about the bill.

“People weren’t understanding of how much interaction there would be with the child once they’ve been identified with a reading deficiency,” said Price, noting that the bill attempts to provide more early reading intervention before students reach the fourth grade.

In contrast to Price’s optimism after the seven-hour marathon session that resulted in no vote, the top Democratic co-sponsor of the bill appeared visibly upset and refused to take questions.

When asked to comment on the situation, state Rep. Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor) repeated, “Not tonight,” and walked off the House floor.

The House was also set to take up legislation meant to improve teacher evaluations in Michigan, but that bill also stalled.

However, it appears the biggest concerns are focused on the early literacy bill and House leaders intent to move the two bills together.

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