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Gov. Whitmer Signs Bill Restoring Parents’ Rights in Children’s Education


March 24, 2023 



Gov. Whitmer Signs Bill Restoring Parents’ Rights in Children’s Education



LANSING, Mich. – Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill that restores parents’ rights in deciding what’s best for their child’s education. Senate Bill 12 repeals a section of law that inserted government into students’ education by preventing students from being promoted if they did not meet one specific benchmark.



“Today, we are taking action to put power back into parents’ hands so they can work with their child’s teachers and make decisions that are best for their family,” said Governor Whitmer. “Getting this done will offer parents more flexibility and ensure educators can focus on doing what they do best—helping students reach their full potential.”



“I want to thank Gov. Whitmer for signing this important legislation. Parents and schools should be trusted to make decisions about grade retention—the state shouldn’t mass-flunk 3rd graders without parent input based on one test,” said State Senator Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia). “It’s a great day for educational freedom for Michigan’s parents and students.”



“I am happy to see the Governor sign Senate Bill 12 to finally repeal the harmful retention aspect of the Read by Grade Three Law,” said State Representative Nate Shannon (D-Sterling Heights). “Rather than being reactive, let’s be proactive in our approach to kids and literacy.  Retention has been a constant threat hanging over our students’ heads. We could use the resources that are spent on retaining students and put that towards more literacy coaches, reading intervention specialists, and provide afterschool and summer school programs to address the issue.”



“Getting held back while your friends move on to the next grade can be a traumatic experience — and, if not done for the right reasons, the negative effects can last a lifetime. Instead of punishing children who struggle with reading, we must provide them with the positive support they need to achieve their full potential,” said Paula Herbart, a longtime teacher from Macomb County and president of the Michigan Education Association. “Thanks to Governor Whitmer and the new legislative majority – particularly former educators Sen. Dayna Polehanki and Rep. Nate Shannon who sponsored this legislation – we’ve prioritized our students' academic and emotional needs by removing the punitive retention requirement from the third-grade reading law. Moving ahead, we look forward to further efforts at ensuring we have a preK-12 literacy support system that helps educators support every student in becoming an excellent reader and a lifelong learner.”



“All of us at MEMSPA are thrilled with the repeal of the retention portion of the 3rd-grade reading law. While the additional focus on literacy and support has been needed, retention and the threat of retention is not an intervention. The retention portion of this law has disproportionately affected students of color and students of poverty across our state. We are excited to continue to focus on increasing literacy training and support in our lower elementary levels to ensure all students become proficient readers. We appreciate the hard work of our legislators and Governor Whitmer in making this possible.” David Simpson, Ph.D., Principal at Northern Hills Middle School, Forest Hills Public Schools and State and Federal Relations Coordinator at MEMSPA.



“Retention can be counterproductive to student success and is not supported by research,” said Dr. Kyle Mayer, Superintendent at the Ottawa Area ISD and member of the Governor’s PreK-12 Literacy Commission since 2016. “It is a decision that should only be made on a case-by-case basis, after careful consideration in partnership with parents, teachers and school administrators. Thank you to our legislature and to Governor Whitmer for repealing this component of the law in the best interest of Michigan children.” 



Since taking office, Governor Whitmer has worked with legislators to make the largest investments in pre-K-12 education four years in a row without raising taxes, close the funding gap between schools, create more paths for future educators, and she established the Michigan Parent’s Council to ensure parents have a seat at the policymaking table. Her most recent budget recommendation reflects parent’s priorities for their children’s education including funding for literacy coaches and tutoring, and Governor Whitmer will continue working to put parents at the forefront of decision-making.