Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed a bill Tuesday that would have given parents and educators a say in promoting a student who fails the third-grade reading test, saying the measure would undermine the future of Oklahoma’s children.
Fallin, in announcing her decision, said House Bill 2625 would have weakened the standards contained in the Reading Sufficiency Act by promoting struggling students for the wrong reasons.
“If we promote a third-grader to the fourth grade because he or she is 10-years-old and not because they’re reading proficient, we’re setting that child up for failure,” she said. “And we’re doing so not to make that child’s life easier but to make someone else’s life easier.”
HB 2625, authored by state Rep. Katie Henke, R-Tulsa, would have created a student reading proficiency team composed of a parent, teachers, principal and a reading specialist to determine whether a student should be promoted to the fourth grade.
The bill was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives. The House could meet Wednesday to consider a veto override.
Supporters of the measure wasted little time criticizing Fallin’s decision.
“It is unfortunate that our governor would oppose not only the parents and educators who trusted her as the leader of our state, but also oppose the senators and representatives who voted to support the legislation,” Linda Hampton, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, said in a statement.
Meredith Exline, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Central Parent Legislative Action Committee, said she was disappointed that Fallin ignored legislators.
“Basically that represents the voice of the people and she went against that,” Exline said. “The decision may be to retain a kid, but shouldn’t it be up to the people who know them the best — educators and parents?”
The third-grade proficiency test — a hot button issue all session — became even hotter May 8 when the state Education Department released the results of this year's reading test. The results showed 7,970 Oklahoma students (16 percent) scored “unsatisfactory” on the test, including 28.9 percent of Oklahoma City School District students and nearly 33 percent of Tulsa district students.
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