LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – From the “Littlest Michiganders” to those who are graduating or close to that milestone were the focus of many of Governor Whitmer’s new educational proposals for the new term.  

Expanding preschool access to all was one of the first priorities for Gov. Whitmer in her State of the State Address. 

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“This investment will ensure children arrive at kindergarten ready to learn and saves their families upwards of $10,000 a year,” Governor Whitmer said, “It helps parents, especially moms, go back to work. And it will launch hundreds more preschool classrooms across Michigan, supporting thousands of jobs.”

Meanwhile, Representative Nate Shannon (D-Sterling Heights) introduced House Bill 4020 on Jan. 18 which would remove portions from the “Read by Grade Three” law including the retention requirement, by amending section 1280f, which states “The department shall do all of the following to ensure that more pupils will achieve a score of at least proficient in English language arts on the grade 3 state assessment…” 

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Furthermore, it would also end the requirement for school districts or public school academies to submit a “retention report to the center for educational performance and information in the form and manner prescribed by the center.”  The report would include the number of pupils retained in grade 3, the number of pupils promoted to grade 4 due to a good cause exemption. 

Some in the House view this as a bad practice considering how foundational reading is for future success.  

“She talked about universal Pre-K, the day after her colleagues in the senate are proposing removing the third grade reading requirement,” Representative Andrew Beeler (R-Port Huron), “She’s talking about everything before third grade, everything after third grade, how about you send your kids to a school where they come out learning how to read?” 

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Despite other priorities, Rep. Beeler viewed reading as foundational to attracting people to Michigan and keeping them here. 

“Is that going to attract someone to the state? Is that going to attract a business to a state when their employees are going to have to send their kids to a school where they don’t learn anything? I don’t care how free you “make an associates degree, if the kid can’t learn how to read it isn’t going to be worth a darn.” 

Michigan has had difficulty bringing teachers to fill in classrooms across all grades, because of retiring teachers and those choosing other professions. 

“[Gov. Whitmer] mentioned a couple metrics that we could use to increase teacher retention, improve recruitment, I think that’s fair,” Rep. Beeler said, “But to not address the fact that we have legislators actively asking for the repeal of the third grade reading requirement is completely backwards and tone deaf.  That’s a major metric of success, made zero mention of the statistics that cite inability to read at third grade and how that prevents you from learning going forward.  No one is learning critical writing in seventh grade like she mentioned if they can’t read first – it’s foundational.”

The new chair of the House Education Committee, Rep. Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth), has mentioned that repealing the retention portion of the state’s “Read by Grade 3” law is priority, among others like teacher recruitment and retention according to Mlive.