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Iowa's 3rd grade reading program scrapped in state budget

Posted April 14

— Iowa lawmakers are abolishing a statewide program intended to improve reading skills of third graders, citing a lack of funding and concerns about the effort's effectiveness.

Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink confirmed plans on Thursday to eliminate the summer program. The Fort Dodge Republican said lawmakers felt it amounted to an unfunded mandate to local school districts if state funding wasn't available, The Des Moines Register (http://dmreg.co/2pexAH8 ) reported.

Nearly 25 percent of the state's third graders didn't read proficiently on Iowa's standardized tests during the 2014-15 academic year. Lawmakers later agreed to establish the reading program for third graders who failed reading tests at the end of the school year. Under the plan, students wouldn't be promoted to fourth grade unless they participated in the program.

But after statewide trials of the reading program were conducted last year, Kraayenbrink said he wasn't convinced it was the best approach.

"We still cannot forget the ones who can't read," Kraayenbrink said. "I understand that. But we didn't have a lot of success in that trial."

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said he was glad lawmakers planned to no longer hold back students who didn't attend the summer programs.

"There is no more important thing to be able to do than to read, and we are going backward on that," Bolkcom said. "We don't need to be going backward, but we have made policy choices that have put too much money in tax giveaways and not nearly enough in the basic things that people expect us to do, like a good public education system."

Des Moines Public Schools spokesman Phil Roeder said the district supported the Legislature's decision.

"The plan to hold back third graders presented both educational and financial challenges for Des Moines Public Schools and school districts across the state," Roeder said in a statement.

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