A bill that would focus on reading comprehension for kindergarten through third grade and hold kids back if they weren't reading at grade level by third grade met with hours of debate Thursday morning.Legislative Bill 651, a priority of Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Elkhorn, would focus on kids in grades K-3 and propose retention if a student fails to read at grade level by the end of the school year.
"The focus of LB 651, The Nebraska Reading Improvement Act, is to ensure every child in Nebraska public schools is guaranteed an opportunity to learn to read regardless of learning differences, their ethnicity or their parents' income level," Linehan said.
Linehan said that to avoid student retention, the bill proposes individual reading improvement plans for any student identified as reading deficient.
It would also would allow for English learners and students with learning disabilities to pass their grade.
Linehan also said that after amendments the bill would allow the parents the final say in a student's retention.
Sen. Steve Erdman of Bayard supported LB 651. He said that until third grade you learn to read, and after that, you read to learn.
"If you don't want this retention thing to apply to your students, there's one way to solve that: that's teach them to read," Erdman said.
Many senators opposed the legislation, saying that the idea is good, but the methods in the bill are not. Most of the dissent was on the prospect of more students being held back.
"Retention does not make a positive difference in reading achievement," said Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln.
Pansing Brooks also said that Iowa passed a similar piece of legislation that is now being repealed because it is costly and ineffective.
Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln said the bill was not researched well enough in committee and should be postponed until it can be studied further. He said he would be willing to work over the next year to find more thoroughly researched legislation.
Debate ended without a vote when the Legislature adjourned early for the week.
If debate continues, Linehan would need 33 votes to break a filibuster.