Oklahoma Legislature overrides Gov. Fallin's veto of third-grade reading bill

House Bill 2625 will ease third-grade reading requirement for Oklahoma studens. Gov. Fallin said the override will set children ‘up for failure.’
by Rick Green Modified: May 21, 2014 at 10:26 pm •  Published: May 21, 2014

Thousands of third-graders will get a new chance to advance to the fourth grade even though they failed a basic reading test, the Oklahoma Legislature decided Wednesday in overturning a veto by Gov. Mary Fallin.

The governor on Tuesday vetoed a bill allowing a student who fails the test to still be promoted if a team of parents and educators approve. Lawmakers applauded and cheered when the veto override passed 79-17 in the House and 45-2 in the Senate.

Some parents had approached lawmakers to complain about the high-stakes testing, which was to be implemented for the first time this year.

The legislative action means the bill immediately becomes law, directly affecting nearly 8,000 Oklahoma students who scored “unsatisfactory” on the test.

Fallin said that by overturning her veto, lawmakers gutted reading standards and supported advancing students who can’t read.

“As a mother, I think that’s a great disservice to our children and that we’re setting them up for failure if they can’t read and they can’t learn the subjects, they will be moving on to in the fourth grade,” she said.

There were already several exemptions in the existing third-grade reading rules that allowed students who failed the test to advance if they could pass an alternative test, improve through a summer reading academy or produce a reading portfolio.

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by Rick Green
Capitol Bureau Chief
Rick Green is the Capitol Bureau Chief of The Oklahoman. A graduate of Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., he worked as news editor for The Associated Press in Oklahoma City before joining The Oklahoman.
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Educators, lawmakers

and advocates react

“Looking ahead, it is important now that we do everything in our power to make sure Oklahoma schoolchildren can read. Expecting a fourth-grader to be able to read Dr. Seuss is not setting too high of a bar. Giving a fourth-grader an opportunity to succeed is not too lofty of a dream. These are the very basics. It is a travesty that some would deny these things to our kids.”

State Superintendent Janet Barresi

“I would like to thank the Oklahoma House and Senate for placing a high value on the voice of parents and educators in reading instruction for our students. They were heroic in stepping forward to vote on behalf of Oklahoma children. I pledge on behalf of all TPS students, teachers and employees that we will do everything in our power to ensure that all students are reading on grade level. It is imperative that we make parents and educators a part of the process, and I am glad to say that our legislators confirmed that position today.”

Superintendent Keith Ballard,

Tulsa Public Schools

“You shouldn’t hold a child back that should be promoted but you should not be promoting a child that ought to be held back. This is not a new issue. I went back and there was a Daily Oklahoman story from June of 1982 talking about an Oklahoma City Public Schools superintendent recommending holding back a thousand students. They did a great job of quoting the superintendent saying ‘You’re not doing the kid any favors. It’s a disservice to the children to promote them into an environment where they are going to have an extremely difficult or impossible time being successful.’”

Rep. Jason Nelson,

R-Oklahoma City

“We applaud the Oklahoma Legislature for allowing parents and teachers to have a voice on the fate of almost 8,000 third-graders across the state. At the same time we urge our lawmakers to properly fund the Reading Sufficiency Act. This year's budget falls short of giving teachers and schools the tools and resources they need to help students who are struggling the most.”

Amber England of Stand for Children,

an education advocacy group

“House Bill 2625 gives us the opportunity to collaboratively sit down with parents and discuss our 5-point strategy for addressing the needs of struggling readers. Our District will work closely with parents and staff in the implementation of the law.”

Tierney Tinnin, spokeswoman,

Oklahoma City Public Schools

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