Ivey vetoes bill aimed at delaying Alabama Literacy Act

Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 3:28 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Gov. Kay Ivey has decided against signing SB 94, a bill that would have delayed the promotion policy component of the Alabama Literacy Act.

The act, passed in 2019, requires that starting in 2022, Alabama third graders who are not reading on grade level will need to repeat the third grade.

After life - and the education system - were upended with the COVID-19 pandemic, Alabama lawmakers sough a two-year delay on the law’s implementation, culminating in SB 94.

Ivey promised a thorough review of the measure and heard from both supporters and opponents of the bill during that process. In the end, she opted against any delays through the veto process.

“As a former teacher and even more so as governor, I believe early literacy is the gateway to all learning,” Ivey said in a statement released by her office. “In the past several days, I have heard from Alabamians who support and from those who oppose the legislature’s approval of a two-year delay of the third-grade promotion policy included in the Alabama Literacy Act.”

With her veto of the legislation, Ivey’s decision means the Literacy Act’s promotion policy will go into effect as scheduled at the end of the 2021-22 school year.

“Everyone agrees that the past 15 months of the COVID-19 pandemic have been hard on all Alabamians,” the governor said, but she concluded that any delay in the literacy act “prior to analyzing the 2020-2021 summative assessment data for reading would be hasty and premature.”

That was the stance taken by Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, who sponsored the Literacy Act when it passed in 2019, and who does not support the delay.

“If it’s pushed off to 2024, then we lose three more years of children that have a chance of promoting on and not knowing how to read,” Collins recently said.

Others, like Verbena High School Principal Tammy Hand who supported the delay, said students should not be expected to read on grade level after not fully being in classrooms during the pandemic.

“With so many kids being remote learners this year for various reasons,” Hand recently said. “I just don’t think they’ve had the educational support that they need.”

Following her veto, Ivey said she will ask State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Eric Mackey, to provide the Alabama State Board of Education and the public with a completed review of the Spring 2021 Assessment results, but particularly that dealing with reading in early grades.

“Once that is completed, I will ask the Alabama Committee on Grade Level Reading to review the relevant data and make recommendations regarding any necessary action. All the aforementioned work can take place this year, well ahead of any deadlines identified in the Alabama Literacy Act,” the governor said.

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