Early literacy improvement legislation receives final passage

UPDATED: Remote learning has presented many struggles for Kentucky students throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and many schools have seen children fall even further behind.

Senate Bill 9, sponsored by Sen. Steve West, takes into account the critical impact of early childhood education in an individual’s future success by investing more in early literacy.

Dubbed the “Read to Succeed Act,” West called Senate Bill 9 a new approach to tackling the issue of early literacy. The legislation is a collaborative effort from the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), the Kentucky Chamber, and other stakeholders, and West has said Senate Bill 9 will be a “game changer” for Kentucky students.

Other proponents of the bill pointed to a recent study showing 50% of Kentucky students are performing below proficiency in 3rd grade reading assessments, adding that those not proficient by 3rd grade are four times more likely to not finish high school.

Currently, school districts can apply for Read to Achieve (RTA) grants and a teacher is placed in a school where students are sent for early intervention. But West said there are 200,000 Kentucky students who are not getting this kind of help at schools that are considered the lowest performing in the state.

The new legislation would reach those students and establish a new high quality professional development program focused on early literacy. West said in a committee hearing the bill does not impact the Read to Achieve program or the $15 million per year allocated to that program in any way, but instead would establish the Read to Succeed program to compliment current efforts.

West previously said $22 million would be spent in the current budget to set up the program which could be offset with the use of $10 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. After that, the program would cost $15 million per year.

Senate Bill 9 now heads to the governor’s desk.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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