TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Jeff Van Drew which would create a 15-member task force to study New Jersey’s efforts to reach kids with reading disabilities was approved by the Senate Education Committee today by a vote of 4-0.
“Our most sacred responsibility in this world is to give future generations the tools and education they need to succeed,” said Senator Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic. “However, when you consider that many students with reading disabilities are given generic special education – as opposed to specialized reading curriculum – we are doing these kids a great disservice. This bill would charge a task force to perform a soup-to-nuts review of the State’s outreach efforts for kids with reading disabilities, and steer New Jersey’s statutes and regulations to better provide for their unique educational needs.”
The bill, S-2400, would establish the New Jersey Reading Disabilities Task Force to study practices for diagnosing, treating and education students with reading disabilities, and how the State’s current laws and regulations affect these students. The 15-member task force would include the Commissioners of Education and Human Services, four legislative members, one representative each from the Speech, Language and Hearing Association and the New Jersey Education Association, and seven public members, five of which would be appointed by the Governor and the remaining two from the Senate President and Speaker of the General Assembly. The panel would be required to issue its findings to the Governor and the Legislature, and offer recommendations for proposed legislation or regulatory changes to enhance the State’s outreach to students with reading disabilities.
“Right now, the programs offered to students with reading disabilities do not have any sort of uniformity state-wide,” said Senator Van Drew. “Especially as we identify best practices to help these kids overcome their disability, I would like to see New Jersey look to establish a Statewide policy that helps kids receive the specialized education they need.”
Senator Van Drew said that the idea for the bill came from Samantha Ravelli, a sixth grader from Ocean City Intermediate School who was able to overcome severe dyslexia through specialized reading courses. Since beginning the specialized curriculum two years ago, Sammy has since made the honor roll and has become more involved in student activities.
“The progress that Sammy has made with the right educational tools is simply astounding,” said Senator Van Drew. “In just two years, she has made leaps and bounds in her educational achievements, and has become more interested and engaged in her school work. I applaud Sammy for everything that she’s been able to achieve despite her disability, and for being an advocate for other students with reading disabilities.”
Senator Van Drew noted that approximately 85% of all special education students have basic deficits in language and reading. Many students with reading disabilities are never properly diagnosed and do not receive the specialized curriculum that would allow them to overcome their disability. Senator Van Drew said that if New Jersey can do a better job reaching out to students with reading disabilities early in their education, the State can give them a foundation to achieve their maximum potential, and save money in the long-run on unnecessary special education expenses.
“Special education classes are too costly – and entirely inappropriate – for students who are only being held back because of a reading disability,” said Senator Van Drew. “Rather than providing generic special ed to kids who should be classified differently, we ought to focus our limited educational resources to meet the students’ unique needs. I look forward to hearing from the Task Force, and working to build more educational opportunities for students with reading disabilities.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.