Sen. Runestad secures money to help students with dyslexia

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jim Runestad spearheaded a successful effort to have the state help local school districts give children with dyslexia the tools they need to succeed.

One of Runestad’s legislative goals this year was to raise awareness regarding how far the state has fallen behind compared to other states in identifying and intervening on behalf of children with this learning disability.

According to the Michigan Alliance for Special Education, about one in five students has a reading disorder, but there is no official state policy on dyslexia, and the term was only mentioned for the first time in the state budget last year.

The School Aid Budget that starts Oct. 1 will for the first time have money in the budget dedicated to identifying children with dyslexia and assisting them in overcoming these challenges to become good readers.

“As the son of two educators and with experience myself in the classroom, I know that good reading skills are the basis for any future academic success or career in the workforce,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “I made it a top priority this term to convince my colleagues that more needed to be done, and I’m glad they responded to my call to action.”

The budget includes $500,000 to provide grants to local school districts and intermediate school districts to use tools that have proven successful in helping children diagnosed with dyslexia to become better readers using phonics. Many current teachers were trained in whole language, so the use of phonics is a special skill not widely available to many local schools.

“Everyone agrees that Michigan is falling behind in its efforts to have the best readers in the nation,” Runestad said. “Reading skills are absolutely critical to maintaining our competitiveness to secure and retain well-paying jobs.”