MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — After the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted classrooms, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey faces a decision whether to delay next year's high-stakes requirement to hold back third-graders who aren't reading on grade level.
Ivey has through Thursday to sign legislation by Sen. Rodger Smitherman, a Democrat from Birmingham, that would push back the promotion requirement from the 2021-22 school year to the 2023-24 school year. If she does not sign the bill, the legislation will die by what is known as a pocket veto.
Ivey spokeswoman Gina Maiola said the bill is under review. The governor’s office is getting lobbied both by people asking her to approve the delay and others seeking a veto of the bill.
Supporters of a delay argue it will be unfair to force the requirement on students who were out of the traditional classroom for long stretches during the pandemic. But opponents argue it will be a disservice to students to delay the promotion requirement — a part of a broader state program to boost literacy — or that the state should wait until latest test scores are available to decide.
The Alabama Education Association, the state lobby representing public school employees, said teachers have called and emailed asking Ivey to sign the bill and approve the delay. The group said many Alabama teachers have not received the training required under the 2019 law.
"Students also need more time to make up for learning loss. It is not feasible to implement the law as it currently stands while students and educators are trying to recover from this unprecedented school year,” the AEA said in a statement on the legislation.
Republican Rep. Terri Collins of Decatur, who sponsored the original measure in 2019, said she is hopeful Ivey will veto the bill. Collins has said lawmakers should wait and see the latest test scores before deciding if a delay is needed.
"To continue moving forward is the best thing for the children," Collins said. The Republican representative said lawmaker will have have “plenty of time” to approve a delay in the 2022 legislative session if the test scores show large numbers of children might be held back.
Collins said she met with the governor Tuesday.
Alabama lawmakers in 2019 approved several initiatives to try to boost reading scores. It included that beginning in the 2021-22 school year, third graders would be required to meet reading benchmarks before moving to the fourth grade. Students would have to make a minimum score on a reading assessment or demonstrate mastery of all third-grade state reading standards as evidenced by a student reading portfolio.