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Covering state lawmakers, bills, and policy emerging from Jefferson City.

No Money For A Reading Tutor? Dyslexia Advocates Hope To Change That

US Department of Education

Roughly one in five people have trouble reading, according to the International Dyslexia Association. A Missouri organization is supporting several bills in Jefferson City that would change the way students with reading disorders get help. 

Many public schools do not provide structured literacy or outside tutoring options to their students with reading disorders. The cost for a tutor – which becomes necessary once a student is falling behind – often comes out of parents’ pockets, and some just can’t afford that.

Decoding Dyselxia MO and its president, Jennifer Edwards, are supporting legislation that could change that.

“I think the time has come that we need to require the appropriate kind of remediation to be used for these kids,” Jennifer Edwards said.

Senate Bill 73, and its House equivalent, House Bill 464, has been dubbed the “Reading Success Bill.” It would require public schools to provide structured literacy to students who are a year behind in reading and those who have Dyslexia.

Structured literacy refers to programs that use what we know from neuroscience and a diagnostic approach to teach reading.

Senate Bill 249 would create the Alternative Disability Services Act. It would require public schools to pay for a student’s outside remediation, like a tutor, if the goals aren’t being met in the classroom. That’s similar to House Bill 631.

Two other bills making their way through the House would provide funding for Bryce’s Law, which was passed in 2014 and lets charities fund scholarships for kids with certain disabilities.

House Bill 33 would provide tax credits to individuals and corporations for the donations needed to fund Bryce’s Law, while House Bill 476 would have those funds come out of the general revenue.

Opponents to the legislation have said schools are already providing the appropriate help to struggling students and believe structured literacy is too prescriptive.

Edwards, however, says structured literacy works.

“You know, the science is there that shows that this is what works for kids. It’s been there for over two decades and we’ve been having this conversation while, you know, our reading rates are not getting any improvement,” Edwards said.

You can track the progress of all of those bills by clicking on the links above in the story. Missouri’s legislative session runs through May.