Zorn bill exempts homeless kids from 3rd-grade reading law

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn has introduced legislation to allow for an exemption to be considered for homeless kids under the state’s third-grade reading law.

“Homeless children face tough challenges — like not having a regular place to call home or not having enough food or clean clothes — and these can have an enormous effect on their ability to learn,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “The lack of access to online educational resources adds to the problems facing young homeless students. My bill would allow these children to get a ‘good cause’ exemption instead of being held back if they are struggling with reading.”

Michigan’s Read by Grade Three Law requires schools to identify and support students in Kindergarten through third grade who are struggling with reading and writing. Third graders may be retained if they are more than one grade level behind, unless a parent, guardian, teacher or coordinator requests a good cause exemption.

Senate Bill 528 would add the fact that the student is homeless to a list of allowable reasons for a good cause exemption.

“As the current law stands, homeless children are not included on the list of qualifying exemptions. Retaining homeless students will only add to the many stigmas they already face. Opportunities to partake in summer interventions with federally funded breakfast and lunch programs that are already in place are much more sound educational interventions for this population,” said Kyle Griffith, Lenawee Intermediate School District assistant superintendent of instruction and general services. “While the main suggestion in the law for intervention is a ‘Read at Home’ plan, it should be easy for us all to see how this may not be a solid option for our children without stable homes across the state. By amending the law and adding homeless children to the list of good cause exemptions, we are doing what is right, fair and just for these third-grade children.”

SB 528 has been referred to the Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee for consideration.