Dyslexia intervention bills move to House floor

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) — Bills that would help school districts identify and assist young students with dyslexic traits and provide a mechanism to fund district support for those students have passed the House Education Committee.

House Bill 187, sponsored by Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, would require the state to provide districts with a “dyslexia toolkit” to guide instruction of students with dyslexic traits. The toolkit would be ready next January, with districts required to have policies in place by next June that would help identify and assist students with dyslexic traits in kindergarten through third grade.

Three specific school districts would be selected to serve as “laboratories of learning” by the Kentucky Commissioner of Education, with districts chosen from urban, suburban and rural areas.

“We are going to work closely with these three districts to find good research methodologies to really identify and be able to take to scale the lessons we learn,” state Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt told the committee.

Wuchner said HB 187 would not require screening of every student but would instead provide tools to help districts assist students with “characteristics” of dyslexia, she said.

Additionally, she said the bill would ensure that teachers are educated about dyslexia at the university level as of 2020.

Funding for district support of students with dyslexic traits could come from HB 367, also sponsored by Wuchner. The bill would create a dyslexia trust fund administered by the state to finance district grants. Money for the fund could come from donations, gifts, public appropriations and proceeds from a “Dyslexia Ready to Read” specialty license plate that the bill would establish.

Dyslexia, as it would be defined by HB 187, is a “specific learning disability” marked by “difficulties with accurate or fluent work recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.”

Wuchner said dyslexia is believed to affect nearly 60,000 Kentucky students.

“That would be the size of one of our largest or second largest school districts that may be affected by dyslexia,” she told the committee.

Testifying in favor of the bill was Miss Kentucky 2015 Clark Davis, who described herself as having “very, very severe dyslexia.” Although Davis has excelled academically and will graduate from the University of Kentucky this spring at age 20, she tearfully told lawmakers how dyslexia still affects her life.

“I had an exam in school last week and, for all of my accomplishments and for all the gifts that the Lord has given me, I looked at that paper and I couldn’t read the first two words,” she said. “And the worst thing about dyslexia is that you can’t describe it—you can’t describe it to people who don’t have it.”

HBs 187 and 367 now return to the full House.

Media release from the Legislative Research Commission. 

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