State lawmakers debate, but reach no decision on an elementary school reading proficiency bill.
Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln sees a lot of common ground in Legislative Bill 651 and a lack of effort to focus on that.
“And right now we’re in a crazy circular firing squad. That’s what we’re doing,” Pansing Brooks tells colleagues during legislative floor debate. “This is a nonpartisan issue. The conservatives don’t have some hold on wanting children to read and, by the way, neither do the Democrats.”
A sticking point in the bill is a provision calling for the retention of a child who cannot read proficiently by the third grade. A student would not be held back if his parents object to this retention in writing.
Sen. Lynne Walz of Fremont says many factors might lead to the struggles an elementary school child has with reading. She says they all must be considered.
“It’s also important that we work together to identify the causes and the underlying problems and find solutions that will truly make a difference and I’m not sure that third grade retention addresses any of those,” Walz says.
It has become a real problem, according to the sponsor of LB 651, Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, who tells colleagues it is not acceptable that at some Nebraska schools more than 70% of the third graders cannot read at a proficient level.
“I’m angry about this. I think we all should be angry,” Linehan says. “The same people who really don’t like this bill, think this bill is ridiculous, think this legislation is too much to ask; you can go back and look at all the transcripts, they were the same people who said testing was ridiculous, we don’t need it, it’s not called for, let’s don’t do it. Every year we’ve tested scores have increased, they’ve gotten better.”
Linehan has run out of time to work on the bill this legislative session. It could come back next year.