Gov. Evers signs Wisconsin reading overhaul



(The Center Square) – Gov. Tony Evers has signed a new law that will change how kids in the state are taught how to read.

The governor on Wednesday signed the plan that will return Wisconsin schools to teaching phonics, and place a huge emphasis on making sure kids can read at grade level before the fourth grade.

“We have to ensure our kids have the reading and literacy tools and skills to be successful both in and out of the classroom,” the governor said.

The law doesn’t include the original provision that would have held kids back until they hit that fourth grade reading level, instead kids will now need to take summer reading classes and pass a new test.

“If we want to improve outcomes for kids in our classrooms across the board, this bill is only one small part of the work we have to do—we must continue making meaningful investments in our kids and our schools, bolster our education workforce to help keep class sizes small, and expand access to mental health services and healthy meals in our schools so our kids can bring their full and best selves to our classrooms,” Eevers added.

The governor said the new law is modeled after reading changes that have worked in other states.

State Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, who wrote the new law, said the reading overhaul may be the most important thing that lawmakers did all year.

“I’ve worked on a lot of important bills, but few will have the impact the Right-to-Read Act will. This is a comprehensive change to the way we teach reading in our state,” Kitchens said, “Teachers will be retrained in the science of reading, schools will get new curriculum, struggling students will be caught sooner, they will get the help they need and their parents will be informed. These changes will help make sure more kids are reading at grade level and will succeed in school.”

But not everyone is happy with the reading overhaul.

Wisconsin’s largest teachers’ union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, criticized the new law on Wednesday.

“Wisconsin educators are profoundly disappointed with provisions in this law. It was developed through backroom deals between politicians and bureaucrats instead of talking to licensed teachers who work with students every day,” WEAC President Peggy Wirtz-Olsen said.

Kitchens said the new law will work for students across Wisconsin, and added that’s the point.

“Science-based reading programs are working in blue states and red states. I am confident it will also work in our purple state. It is the same way most of us learned to read in the first place,” Kitchens added.

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