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More than half of Republican voters oppose Literacy Act delay

By HEATHER GANN, Alabama Daily News

A majority of Republican primary voters oppose delaying a requirement this spring to hold back third graders who are not reading on grade level, according to a new Alabama Daily News / Gray Television poll.

Pushing that holdback requirement to spring 2024 is one of the significant pieces of legislation pending in the final weeks of the Alabama Legislature’s spring session. If lawmakers don’t act, the provision in the 2019 Literacy Act goes into effect at the end of the current school year.

The poll of likely Republican primary voters showed 56.5% were opposed to a delay, while just 25.8% supported it. 11% did not have an opinion and 7% were undecided.

Senate Bill 200 is awaiting a final vote in the Alabama House.  Bill sponsor Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, has emphasized this bill’s importance throughout the session and has previously stated that without its leniency Alabama’s third graders will become scapegoats of the pandemic.

“This bill will provide our young people with the opportunity to receive the opportunities and the training that they need to succeed,” said Smitherman. “When this bill (the Literacy Act) passed we didn’t have a pandemic. To test these kids and not train them, we’re just setting them up to fail.”

Gov. Kay Ivey and several education groups late last year moved to support a one-year delay, citing the need for another year of testing data to determine which students should be retained in grade three. But in a compromise with Smitherman, Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, agreed to remove the one-year delay from her bill that makes other changes to the literacy law.

Smitherman expressed confidence that lawmakers will agree to a delay in the Literacy Act testing requirement and said from there he hopes to expand funding for at-risk students.

The Alabama Senate will begin working on the proposed $8.1 billion 2023 education budget when lawmakers return from spring break next week.

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