INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Mitch Daniels’ proposal to hold back third-graders
if they can’t read well may have hit a snag Wednesday because of its cost.
The Senate Education Committee voted 8-3 to advance the bill, which now
moves to the Senate Appropriation Committee for consideration. But
Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said he’s unsure whether
he’ll give the bill a hearing because it comes with such a large price tag
that he doesn’t see how the Legislature could pass it this year.
It’s unclear exactly how much the proposal would cost, but some of the
remediation efforts included in the bill would run upward of $20 million
starting in 2013, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.
Democrats who control the House and Republicans who lead the Senate have
pledged to avoid expensive items during the legislative session.
“With the current fiscal condition of the state, we can’t pile on the
liabilities down the road for somebody else to have to deal with,” Kenley
Daniels, a Republican, urged lawmakers in his State of the State address
Tuesday to stop “social promotion” — automatically promoting students
through the grades — and ensure that third-graders learn how to read before
moving to the fourth grade.
State Superintendent Tony Bennett, also a Republican, told the Senate
Education Committee on Wednesday that he thought the reading remediation
programs and other bill costs could be covered by shifting around existing
“Asking schools to realign their resources to support this critical
foundation for educational success only makes sense,” he said.
But some school leaders feared they wouldn’t be able to afford the programs.
Under the proposal, youngsters who can’t read at the third-grade level by
the time they finish third grade would not move on to fourth grade starting
in the 2012-2013 school year. Exemptions could be made for certain students,
such as those with disabilities or those who have been held back for two or
The Indiana Department of Education says nearly a quarter of third graders
fail the reading section of annual statewide tests. With about 80,000
third-graders in state public schools, that means up to 20,000 kids could be
held back each year.
The bill requires intensive intervention efforts, such as providing 90
minutes a day of uninterrupted reading instruction through small groups,
extended school days, summer reading programs or other programs. That could
cost more than $23 million, the Legislative Services Agency said.
Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Eugene White said he agrees with
the legislation’s intent but worries about where the money will come from
under the plan.
“I don’t know where we’re going to find money for programs that have good
intentions but very little funding,” White said.
White noted that school boards already can set policies against social
promotion. His district has such a policy, he said, and holds back about 25
percent of its third-grade students.
Finding money for remediation could be especially difficult for schools if
Indiana’s economy continues to struggle. Schools will lose about 3.5 percent
of state funding this year because Daniels ordered cuts starting this month.