HB 487 – Steps in the Right Direction

HB 487, sponsored by Rep. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell), advanced out of the House and will soon receive consideration by the Senate. There are several improvements to existing law and policy that are contained within the legislation, as well as a couple of items that have received some media attention.

One of those items is the expansion of the 3rd Grade Reading Guarantee (TGRG) to students on state-funded scholarships. The majority of OAIS members do not participate in any of the state scholarship programs but several do and it is important to those schools that the programs operate as efficiently and effectively as possible.
The most positive aspect of the TGRG expansion is the recognition of the fact that private schools are inherently different than public schools. Private schools are required to notify the parents of a student who may be in danger of facing retention in the 3rd grade. However, HB 487 also allows schools to keep the authority they should have, as private schools, to craft a remediation plan that is the best fit for, and in the best interests of, the student.
A negative aspect of the proposed legislation is the application of the policy to students receiving a Jon Peterson Special Needs (JPSN) scholarship. While it is true that students whose IEP exempts them from the testing will not have the TGRG applied to them, we need to do more to respect the work that members like Marburn Academy, Lawrence School and Springer School and Center do for their students. These are the best schools in the state for educating students with learning differences. If anyone is in a position to determine the proper grade level or promotion of a student,  it is the teachers and administrators at these schools. HB 487 does not have any language that would give consideration to these schools and we hope that changes.
It is certain that HB 487 will not go through the Senate unchanged. We look forward to working with members of the Senate to make a good bill even better.