OKLAHOMA CITY - Governor Mary Fallin on Tuesday vetoed House Bill 2625, a bill that rolls back the literacy standards established in the Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA). The RSA was first passed in 2011 with the goal of ensuring that every third grade child can read before being promoted to fourth grade.
“The research is clear,” said Fallin. “From kindergarten to third grade, children learn to read. Beginning in the fourth grade, they ‘read to learn.’ Without basic literacy skills, children in the fourth grade fall further and further behind. Those children are more likely to drop out of high school and less likely to find good jobs even if they do graduate. Promoting them to fourth grade without the basic tools they need to succeed is not just unwise; it is immoral. We must ensure our children have basic proficiency in reading before the fourth grade.”
Under the RSA, every third grade child must take a standardized test measuring his or her proficiency in reading. This year, 7970 students – approximately 16 percent of Oklahoma’s third graders – scored an “unsatisfactory” on the RSA literacy test. A score of “unsatisfactory” indicates that a child is reading at about a first grade or below level.
If a child receives a score of “unsatisfactory,” he or she has a number of options for promotion to the fourth grade. There are six total “good cause exemptions” available to students who:
· Work with teachers to assemble a portfolio of work that demonstrates basic literacy
· Take one of four alternative standardized reading assessments recognized by the State Board of Education
· Successfully complete a summer reading academy
· Have limited English language proficiency and have received less than two years of instruction in an English language learner program
· Have a disability and have been placed in an individual education program assessed with alternate achievement standards through the Oklahoma Alternate Assessment Program
· Have received intensive remediation in reading for more than two years and have been previously held back in either kindergarten, first, second or third grade
A child who receives a score of “unsatisfactory” on the end-of-year RSA test and does not fall into one of these six “good cause exemptions” would repeat the third grade with an emphasis on improving his or her reading skills.
“Oklahoma has many great schools and dedicated, hardworking teachers. But the fact remains: we are facing a crisis. We are failing to teach too many of our children the most basic skill required to succeed in school, in the workplace and in life: how to read. The results are devastating. Fourth graders who cannot read often become tenth graders who cannot read. These children become adults who struggle to find and keep living wage jobs and who are unable to support their families. Our prisons are filled with men and women who never learned to read.
“The Reading Sufficiency Act takes an important step towards addressing these issues and ensuring that every child in Oklahoma can read. However, House Bill 2625 would gut the state’s literacy programs and return us to the same broken system that failed our children for decades. That is why I have vetoed this bill and am imploring the Legislature to reconsider the devastating affect that rolling back literacy requirements will have on our children and their futures.”
The Fiscal Year 2014 budget included $6.5 million in funds to support literacy programs included within the RSA. The budget deal for FY 2015, reached between Governor Fallin and House and Senate leaders increases that amount to $9 million annually.