Gov. Tony Evers vetoed a bill this Friday that promoted a restructuring of how elementary schools work with students who struggle to read. He claimed that the legislation required more funds to enact its proposed changes.
The bill supported tripling the number of literacy tests young students take in school, as well as requiring educators to create a personalized reading plan for every student identified to be an “at-risk” reader.
"This bill ultimately reduces valuable instruction time while asking schools to strain their existing resources, instead of providing necessary funding to support the work educators, administrators and staff are currently doing to support reading and literacy for our students,” said Evers.
A child’s reading proficiency is often a predictor of academic success later in life and their economic prospects after leaving school, especially for students who live in low-income households. According to a study by Annie E. Casey Foundation,that one in six children who are not at a proficient reading level by third grade will not graduate high school.
Proponents of the legislation, including its authors Sen. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, and Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, believe more testing for students between the grades of 4K and second grade will help boost students' reading abilities, which have, on average, been rated as below proficient for decades.
Evers, the former state superintendent and a former educator, said in his veto message that the bill didn’t include needed funding to accomplish the bill’s goals, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
"I object to fundamentally overhauling Wisconsin literacy instruction and intervention without evidence that more statewide, mandatory testing is the best approach for our students, and without providing the funding needed for implementation," Evers said.
The Department of Administration stated that an estimated cost of the bill was indeterminate, but said the bill would generally result in increased costs for school districts and charter schools because of the increased frequency of the tests and staff time needed to prepare remediation plans and notify parents.
"We readily acknowledge that our bill is not a magic bullet that will solve all of our problems, but it is a great first step that will make a noticeable difference," Kitchens and Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac, wrote in a letter in response to Evers’ decision. "The status quo is obviously not working, and we have to do something different. We owe our students and parents that much."