Sen. Runestad secures funding for statewide dyslexia support

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Jim Runestad is celebrating the signing of a K-12 school budget that includes training for teachers to provide students with dyslexia the tools they need to succeed.

The record $17 billion K-12 budget signed into law on Tuesday includes $1 million to train teachers on how to recognize and help children with dyslexia through an Orton-Gillingham model multi-sensory approach.

“As the son of two educators and with experience teaching myself, I know that good reading skills are vital to opening new doors and new opportunities for students,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “I am thrilled that we were able to double this important funding to make a real difference for students with dyslexia and their families.

According to the Michigan Alliance for Special Education, about one in five students has a reading disorder. It is estimated that a majority of these students may have some form of dyslexia, a minimum of 5% to 10% of the population, which is between 108,000 to 217,000 children in Michigan alone. However, there is no official state policy on dyslexia, and the term was only mentioned for the first time in the state budget last year.

Testimony before the Senate School Aid subcommittee this spring revealed that the $500,000 funding line Runestad secured in the 2021 budget for dyslexia training was completely exhausted by requesting schools within two weeks of becoming available. Testimony from teachers who were trained in the pilot program stated that the training had made a significant difference in their ability to recognize dyslexic students and provide interventions that actually work.

Experts in the field of dyslexia, including the Institute for Multi-sensory Education (IMSE), have expressed confidence in the progress being made due to the project.

Allan Blankenship, CEO of Michigan Dyslexia Institute, also expressed their support for the program, saying, “The Michigan Dyslexia Institute is proud to be a part of the pilot program, which is providing a minimum of 30 hours of training to teachers in multiple school districts. We have received positive feedback on both the quality of the program and the follow-up support that was provided.”

Runestad noted the bipartisan efforts made over the past few years to raise awareness regarding the state’s need to properly address dyslexia.

“Republicans, Democrats, school administrators, and educational experts have all come together to get real results for students in need,” Runestad said. “The problem is particularly acute in Michigan. We are ranked dead last for helping students with dyslexia succeed. This is contributing to our failure to bridge the literacy gap and is leaving students and families discouraged and hopeless. I will continue to advocate on behalf of vulnerable and dyslexic students going forward.”

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