INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels said he was stunned that
his proposal to hold back third-grade students who can’t read well came with
such a large price tag that a key lawmaker said it shouldn’t pass this year.
Daniels told reporters Thursday that his proposal to end so-called social
promotion shouldn’t cost a cent.
He and state Superintendent Tony Bennett, a fellow Republican, say schools
are already getting paid to teach students how to read, so the plan
shouldn’t require more cash.
“The fiscal (impact) of that bill is zero dollars and zero cents,” Daniels
The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency disagrees. It estimated the
remediation efforts called for in the bill could cost schools up to $49
Daniels said the agency must have misunderstood the bill.
“Maybe they’re overworked,” he said.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said the General
Assembly always abides by the Legislative Service Agency’s estimates and
that the state can’t afford to pass expensive legislation this year.
“If we think there’s even a probability of a fiscal impact, I think we need
to back up and hold off,” Kenley said.
Bennett said he’s willing to work with Kenley to address the bill’s cost.
Bennett, who has triplets who were held back a year in kindergarten and have
since gone on to college, said the proposal would focus efforts on reading
and make it a top priority. He said local schools should be able to shift
existing resources to provide the instruction called for by the proposal.
Under the bill, 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 bill requires intensive intervention efforts for those who have been
held back, such as providing 90 minutes a day of uninterrupted reading
instruction through small groups, extended school days or other programs.
That alone could cost more than $23 million, the Legislative Services Agency
Bennett suggested schools could provide that 90 minutes during the existing
school day by having students skip recess or fine arts classes or by making
other arrangements. He said parents, volunteers or community mentors could
help teachers working with retained students and that local principals and
superintendents could find creative solutions.
Kenley said it sounded like the proposal needed to be thought out more.
“If they’re telling me that there’s so much slack in the school day today
that they can do all this because of the free time they have, they need to
produce the evidence that that’s so,” Kenley said.
Kenley hasn’t yet decided whether his committee will hold a hearing on the
proposal, which Daniels deemed a priority in his State of the State address
Indiana Department of Education data shows 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
retained each year.