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‘VETO’: Governor Kay Ivey takes strong stand for Alabama’s children

Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday announced she has vetoed Democrat-sponsored SB 94, which would have delayed implementation of the Alabama Literacy Act’s retention component by two years.

This aspect of the Literacy Act, passed by the legislature in 2019, is set to take effect following the conclusion of the 2021-2022 school year. It would require that students be able to read at grade level before advancing to the fourth grade.

SB 94 — sponsored by Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) and carried in the House by Rep. Barbara Drummond (D-Mobile) — would have pushed that requirement back until the end of the 2023-2024 school year, potentially seeing two more classes of students statewide be promoted to the fourth grade whether they could read or not. The bill was passed by the Alabama Legislature even though studies have shown that 74% of struggling readers at the end of the third grade will not ever catch up if allowed to move on. Opponents of SB 94 argued that the bill would effectively doom these children to failure.

“As a former teacher and even more so as governor, I believe early literacy is the gateway to all learning,” Governor Ivey said in a Thursday statement. “In the past several days, I have heard from Alabamians who support and from those who oppose the legislature’s approval of a two-year delay of the third-grade promotion policy included in the Alabama Literacy Act.”

“Everyone agrees that the past 15 months of the Covid-19 pandemic have been hard on all Alabamians, including school personnel, students and parents,” she noted. “However, to establish any delay at all in the Alabama Literacy Act prior to analyzing the 2020-2021 summative assessment data for reading would be hasty and premature. Therefore, I have notified the sponsors of the promotion policy delay that I have vetoed SB 94.”

Ivey has also moved to ensure all relevant data will be available for the Legislature to act upon ahead of the retention requirement going into effect in 2022. The 2022 regular session will start well ahead of the end of the 2021-2022 school year.

“Furthermore, as president of the Alabama State Board of Education, I am requesting that the state superintendent of education and his staff provide the board, and the public, a full and complete review of the Spring 2021 Assessment results in all subjects and grades, but in particular the data on reading in the early grades as soon as the data are available and have been analyzed. Once that is completed, I will ask the Alabama Committee on Grade Level Reading to review the relevant data and make recommendations regarding any necessary action,” the governor explained. “All the aforementioned work can take place this year, well ahead of any deadlines identified in the Alabama Literacy Act.”

“As we address the impact of the pandemic on our students, we need the support and focus the Alabama Literacy Act provides: identifying and supporting struggling readers, teacher training and coaching, and clear communication with parents on where their children have needs and how those needs are being addressed. We must remain focused on ensuring that our students have the foundational reading skills they need to succeed,” she concluded.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn