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House passes bill to ensure “age appropriateness” of Literary Task Force materials

Garrett said the current structure leaves task force materials unscreened before reaching classrooms.

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Is there such a thing as a good lie?

That question is posed by a book approved by the Alabama Literary Task Force and is just one example, said Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville, of an age-inappropriate book being approved by the task force.

“It basically tells a story about a student who told a lie to save another student from embarrassment,” Garrett said. “Now that’s a kind thing to do, but the end of the story asks was that lie bad? Is lying always bad? And it basically makes a case that ‘I think this was a good lie.’ That’s getting into an area at a certain age that’s a problem for me and for many parents.”

Garrett claimed that the materials being approved by the literary task force are not being screened by anyone.

“When the task force recommends material, they are not reading the material,” Garrett said. “They’re saying this material meets the science of reading. But they’re not reading the material.”

Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, told Garrett that he had bad information and that materials are being screened before being approved. Garrett explained his understanding that textbook materials are being screened by the textbook screening committee for the State Department of Education, but they are not “in the loop” on the approval process of the literary task force.

The bill does not define “age appropriate” except to say that the material should align with the state’s standards and code of ethics and reflect the core values of the state.

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Gov. Kay Ivey recently forced out Barbara Cooper, secretary of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, over a “woke” teacher resource book that discusses developmentally appropriate practices.

Garrett said the intent of his bill is to change the structure to make sure the materials are being screened before they end up in Alabama classrooms.

Another prong of Garrett’s bill would allow some districts to continue with their own literacy programs despite the reading assessments approved by the task force.

Rep. Troy Stubbs, R-Wetumpka, said on the floor Tuesday that two-thirds of the state are using unapproved assessments and therefore the improved reading scores can’t be tied to the approved assessments.

The assessments are guaranteed to screen for dyslexia, and advocates told Rebecca Griesbach at AL.com that they are concerned about the law’s impact on their children, who could be left behind by assessments that fail to screen for dyslexia.

Garrett said the law still requires assessments to screen for characteristics of dyslexia.

Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, questioned why the state would want to change a law that is being mimicked by other states around the country.

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“I don’t want us to do anything that weakens what I’ve heard all around state,” Collins said.

Garrett said requiring the districts to change assessments equates to “unfunded mandates.”

The bill passed 94-4 with three abstentions and moves to the Senate for consideration with just five days left in the legislative session.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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