HELENA -- Sen. Cary Smith has a personal connection to a bill he is sponsoring in the Montana Legislature that would address how public schools screen for dyslexia.
“I thought that we’ve know about it for a long time, so obviously we’ve got great programs going to teach kids with dyslexia how to read, but it didn’t turn out that way for us with my granddaughter,” Smith said.
Smith, R-Billings, presented Senate Bill 140 to the House Education Committee on Wednesday. The bill, which passed the Senate 50-0 in February, would require Montana’s school districts to screen for dyslexia, a learning disability, between Kindergarten and second grade.
Smith said schools have not done enough to help dyslexic children, and that early intervention is critical to a student’s success. Superintendent of Public Instruction, Elsie Arntzen, spoke in support of the bill.
Esme Bartuska, a 9-year-old dyslexic student from Missoula, told lawmakers she has not felt supported in school.
“I felt that I was being told every day that I am not smart enough, that I do not try hard enough, and that I do not work fast enough,” Bartuska said.
According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, one in five students has a language-based learning disability, and dyslexia is the most common.
The bill has 110 cosigners from both sides of the aisle. No one opposed the bill.
Shaylee Ragar is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.