Bill to update reading level passes house vote

HELENA -- Less than half of Montana’s students are able to read as well as they should for their grade according to a report from the Office of Public Instruction. A bill that would help them catch up and meet reading goals for their age group passed a final vote in the Senate 27-to-23 Thursday.

House Bill 352 would establish an optional reading intervention program for districts that would expand the resources they have to help kids practice reading both at school and at home.

Sen. Shannon O’Brien, D-Missoula, carried the bill in the Senate.

“Kids are learning to read up until third grade and then we shift to reading to learn. So it’s very important at this third grade level that they know how to read. Only 46% of Montanans in third through eighth grade are reading at proficiency. And that increases the expenses and decreases the effectiveness of our K-12 education system because it requires additional interventions in middle and high school,” O’Brien said.

Sen. John Fuller, R-Kalispell, opposed the bill.

“Significant quantities of students at the third and fourth grade level are deficient in their reading skills. So what’s the answer according to the proponents of this bill? Well, we need to spend more money, a sizable amount of money and start with the kids into a monopolistic school at an earlier age. I don’t think it’ll work,” Fuller said.

The program would cost the state around $1.5 million a year according to the most recent fiscal note.

The bill will now move on to the governor’s desk for a signature or veto.

Elinor Smith is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

 

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