| May 21, 2014

With tough-love veto, Fallin stands up for kids

Gov. Mary Fallin is to be applauded for intervening on behalf of children who have not been taught to read.

The Reading Sufficiency Act is a noble and necessary law, OCPA distinguished fellow Andrew Spiropoulos reminds us. “It tells parents and schools that, at some point, the community can’t allow you to pretend anymore. We must face the hard truth that your child can’t read. Until we fix that problem, we cannot promote the child to the next level.”

Though House Bill 2625 is well-intentioned and many of its supporters are clearly motivated by compassion, it would eviscerate the Reading Sufficiency Act. Gov. Fallin’s tough-love veto shows that she understands that it is anything but compassionate to promote a child to the fourth grade who is reading at a first-grade level or lower. Fourth-graders who are functionally illiterate, who cannot read and comprehend Green Eggs and Ham, are well on their way to joining the ranks of Oklahoma’s adult illiterates. These are children whose lives will be damaged, many of them unalterably. Social promotion does them no favors whatsoever. As Spiropoulos says, “promoting someone to fourth grade who cannot read isn’t a kindness. It’s a cruel joke.”

One thing is clear: the status quo is not working. As is the case year after year, Oklahoma currently has thousands of fourth graders who are unable to read at grade level — despite the fact that the education system has already spent more than $25,000 on each of their educations. How is this even possible? It’s time for some market solutions to this government failure. Oklahoma policymakers should expand vouchers and tax-credit scholarships, and should enact Education Savings Accounts, so that parents can choose educators who will teach their children to read.

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