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State Sen. Orr on Literacy Act: Would prefer ‘we just move ahead’; Has proposed legislation for math version

The Alabama Literacy Act, passed back in 2019, will require third graders to read at a third-grade level before being promoted to the fourth grade.

However, since passage and the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the law has been subject to efforts to delay.

Although the bill nearly faced a delay last year after the Alabama Legislature passed a law sponsored by State Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham), Gov. Kay Ivey vetoed it.

However, a delay looks likely from the legislature this year, given it has the backing of Ivey and the 2019 House sponsor, State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur).

State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), the Senate Education Budget Committee chairman and the bill’s 2019 Senate sponsor, said on Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal” that he was open to some changes.

However, he said he would have also preferred the law remain in effect without delay but acknowledged the point of view held by delay proponents.

“I served as the Senate sponsor of the bill and handled it in the Senate,” he said. “If Representative Collins is fine with the delay — I get it, I understand. Also, in that bill, and I’ve had this discussion with Representative Collins, really want to see if there are some things we can do to ratchet down all the paperwork associated with the Literacy Act. That’s one of the complaints I get from educators back home. If there’s a way to reduce the bureaucratic paperwork associated with the law, most of it done by the State Department. So that’s something we’ll need to look at when that bill comes up to the Senate.”

“That’s one thing I’ve learned, Todd, in education — how important a year is,” Orr continued. “We adults seem to think, ‘Ahh, we can work on that next — but every year that we let a cohort or class of children graduate or move on up in the education system, and we are not doing all that we can to impact their lives, in that year they’re in the fifth grade or eighth grade or whatever it is — that’s not a good thing because we’re cheating those children to a solid education. So, I do understand, and I would have preferred we just move ahead with the Literacy Act. But again, I’m just one voice. And I certainly respect the Governor’s opinion, Representative Collins, Senator Smitherman and others.”

Orr also mentioned the Alabama Numeracy Act, SB 171, which he and State Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence) cosponsor.

The bill would create math standards and ban the implementation of so-called Common Core standards.

“We’re 52nd in the latest [National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)] in mathematics,” he explained. “We’re behind D.C. and all of the military schools, which is unacceptable to me. We can do better, and so I’ve been working with math professionals on this bill and will be filing it, as I said [Thursday]. It’s going to take a good commitment from the state, but it also has accountability. That is something I think the public needs to demand of our public schools. But with COVID, they have a challenge, and I’m very, very sympathetic to that. But we’ve got to get going with math like we did with literacy.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

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