Third Grade Reading Bill Makes Its Way To The Governor’s Desk

Critics say some students will be unfairly held back from moving on to fourth grade.

Jake Neher/WDET

Third graders who fail the state’s reading test might not be able to graduate to fourth grade. That’s if Gov. Rick Snyder signs a bill that is headed his way.

The bill stalled a bit over the summer, but Wednesday it quickly jumped from the state House to the state Senate for a final vote. Wednesday was the last time the Senate and House would meet on the same day before the election.

Speaking before the House voted on the bill, state Rep. Amanda Price (R-Park Twp.) said, “Whether you agree with it or not, literacy in Michigan still needs to be addressed and it still needs attention from this body.” Price is the bill’s sponsor.

There are some exemptions in the bill. For example, students may pass to fourth grade if they do well enough in other subjects. Parents can also petition the district superintendent for a “good cause” exemption.

Some opponents of the bill say only allowing parents to petition – and not an advocate – is unfair to some students.

Rep. Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor) opposed the bill, in part, for that reason. “The kids who are poor, the kids who have parents who are less engaged or not engaged at all, through no fault of that student’s, are going to be retained at a much higher rate,” he said.

But Price says, at its core, the bill is about increasing literacy rates, and the work there is not over.

“It serves as a refocusing of efforts around literacy and it has just in the course of conversation over the last three years generated bigger conversations about where we need to be,” she said.

If signed, the bill would apply to kids who will be in third grade in 2019-2020.


  • Cheyna Roth
    Cheyna has interned with Michigan Radio and freelanced for WKAR public radio in Lansing. She's also done some online freelancing and worked on documentary films.