GOP lawmakers blast state as committee OKs new reading standards



(The Center Square) – Wisconsin’s push to help children in the state’s schools read better took its next step forward Monday.

The budget-writing Joint Finance Committee approved four new reading programs for the state’s public schools.

JFC co-chairman Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, said more than 60% of Wisconsin fourth-graders currently cannot read or write at grade level. Born said changing the way Wisconsin teachers teach reading is the obvious first step.

“Between 60 and 70% of our kids can’t read at the proper level. Who runs that system now folks? Who’s the one providing the council and the guidance to all of our school districts on that now? [Department of Instruction],” Born said during Monday’s hearing. “DPI is part of the failure of our kids to read. What are we doing? We had to create legislation…so our kids can read.”

The new reading curricula are required under Wisconsin’s read overhaul law, known as Act 20. But Born said schools are not required to use the new lessons. He did say local schools won’t get any state money to buy textbooks or lesson plans for any curriculum that is not part of the Act 20 overhaul.

“I am not an expert in curriculum. I am not an expert in education. That’s why, in the bill, we created a panel of experts to be brought together,” Born explained. “[That] a panel of experts, including people from DPI, said these are the best that meet the standards.”

JFC Democrats opposed the new reading plans.

They fear lawsuits from local schools and don’t like the four choices offered.

“We are saying that all of this isn’t a mandate, you know this is just what you’re going to get a grant for. Well, it is a mandate because what we’ve done is we’ve outlawed the teaching of three queuing and similar holistic approaches, and we’re saying this is how we want to teach reading. That’s a good thing, but we are also narrowing down the choices that schools have to simply four curricula,” Rep. Deb Andraca, D-Whitefish Bay, said.

Advocates, like Quinton Klabon with the Institute for Reforming Government, said the new curriculum is the “first comprehensive reading legislation in decades. It will replacediscredited reading curricula that have wrecked most public and private schools,upgrade teachers’ skills in classic, phonics-based methods, reflect those changes inuniversity teacher programs, and get parents more involved if their child is behind in reading.”

“The Joint Finance Committee did the right thing by trusting teachers, school leaders, and dyslexia experts,” Klabon added.

The new reading lessons will be available for schools to use in the next school year.

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