Uncertainty shrouds the future of the Literacy Act's retention component, according to State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur).
Collins, who chairs the House Education Policy Committee, told Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5's "The Jeff Poor Show" on Monday that the need for more data justified a delay in the statute's requirement that third-graders read at a third-grade level before being promoted to the fourth grade.
However, whether or not a delay can be passed by the House of Representatives, including the one prescribed in legislation sponsored by State Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) that passed by the Senate last month, is not clear.
According to Collins, tweaks were needed for the Literacy Act, which was passed into law by the legislature in 2019.
She said the law as it has been implemented was having a positive effect on reading comprehension.
"What I feel like is that it's working," she said. "You know, I advocated for a one-year delay, not because of COVID, but because we won't have three years of testing until 2022-23. So, I felt like three years of testing was important to make sure our data was valid; statistically valid. So, that had been my argument.
"Sen. [Rodger] Smitherman -- his focus is only on that retention part," Collins continued. "He and I met several times the week before last. So, I took that completely out of my legislation that passed the House. And he got his two-year delay through the Senate. It will be in my committee at the end of this week. All I can tell you is we'll just have to watch the progress of both of our bills."
Collins said she felt optimistic about her changes to the Literacy Act in the State Senate but said there was uncertainty regarding the delay.
"I don't know what we'll do with the delay," Collins said. "I know Sen. Smitherman feels very strongly about at least a two-year delay. And so, we will see what happens."
Collins said she believed Gov. Kay Ivey favored a one-year delay but added that if both her Literacy Act legislation and Smitherman's delay were to pass, Ivey would likely agree to "move on."
The Morgan County Republican lawmaker also spoke favorably of the proposed mathematics companion legislation to the Literacy Act, the Numeracy Act.
She said it was not out of the realm of possibilities for its passage before the end of the 2022 legislative session.
"We are literally only halfway through," Collins said. "You can say it either way: We are already halfway through or we are only halfway through. But we can definitely get it passed. We've got to get moving on things that are important to us, and we've got to be in agreement. Sometimes getting the House and the Senate into agreement on issues is definitely the hard part."
Collins said to expect a hefty price tag for the Numeracy Act given the legislature would be starting from scratch.
"Very expensive," Collins replied when asked. "You know, the benefit of the Literacy Act was we already had the Alabama Reading Initiative, ARI, in place. And so we could just kind of refocus their efforts back where they had been successful before but with the science of reading. We don't have that necessary [math] infrastructure in place, and so building that infrastructure will be expensive but it will be worth it. It's what we need to do to make sure our children are prepared."
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