Nate Robson
Nate Robson

May 13, 2014

Three days after it was announced that nearly 8,000 Oklahoma students are at risk of repeating the third grade for failing the state’s reading test, lawmakers voted to change the retention requirements.

The bill passed the House by bi-partisan, veto-proof 89-6 vote. It requires schools to create a panel of teachers, parents and reading specialists to determine on a case-by-case basis whether a student who failed the test should move on to third grade or be retained. The bill also exempts students who have already shown reading proficiency from taking the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test.

The bill still needs a signature from Gov. Mary Fallin, who has supported the current retention requirement that was added to the Reading Sufficiency Act in 2011.

Both Democrat and Republican supporters who voted in favor of the bill pledged to override any veto.

Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, blasted the retention provision, which was implemented as the state slashed education funding.

“I am here to tell you the enemy is not the parents or administrators,” Shelton said. “The enemy in many situations is us … We did not properly fund it.”

Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, said he will urge Fallin to veto the bill, which he said does more harm than good.

“This is not about education,” Nelson said. “If it’s about education, you will make sure the kids can read. This is about social promotion.” Nelson supported the bill in March but said he changed his mind.

Nelson attempted to add a voucher provision to the bill Monday that would have allowed parents to pull their children out of a public school and enroll them in a private school. The voucher would have used state money to cover a portion of the student’s tuition.

The provision was voted down.

It was not immediately clear Tuesday how long it will take districts to assemble the teams of teachers and parents as the school year wraps up.

Districts like Oklahoma City and Tulsa public schools have already said they will continue with summer reading programs regardless of what happens with the bill.

Nate Robson can be reached at

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