Jul. 06, 2023

HARRISBURG — Rep. Jason Ortitay (R-Washington/Allegheny) today expressed disappointment that legislation he authored to advance early literacy for Pennsylvania’s children failed to be included in the 2023-24 state budget.

“Last year, we took a critical first step to putting the Commonwealth’s children on the pathway to literacy,” Ortitay said. “Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, the state budget did not make the voluntary program permanent and required. But the fight isn’t over. While I will continue to pursue legislation in this area, a comprehensive statewide policy would provide guide rails and quality controls and ensure that every child is taught using effective evidence-based reading instruction. I am calling on all school board members and school administrators to make the change locally. With local control, school districts have the ability to determine instructional methods and curriculum and can begin to make the shift today. Parents should call their school board members and school administrators and demand a change to a data-backed, proven method of teaching kids how to read.” 

The 2022-23 state budget provided professional development for teachers in structured literacy and model curriculum, as well as teaching structured literacy at the college level for new teachers. This was the first phase of changing how children are taught to read. Ortitay’s home school district – Canon-McMillan – started the process in 2022.

“With the more than $500 million increase in Basic Education Funding in the budget, I hope and encourage all schools to use some of that money to change their reading curriculum. Now is the time to make this change if we are going to get children’s proficiency reading levels above the abysmal 34% rate. A handful of schools have already started using the science of reading and are seeing great results. Teaching reading the same way because it’s always been done that way isn’t helping anyone. Let’s make real change in the education system. Let’s provide teachers with training and resources they need to make this happen. Our future depends on it.”

Research from multiple fields of study over time have confirmed and disconfirmed theories on how children best learn to read. It has shown the science of reading and structured literacy – phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension – work.

Many studies show that poverty, dropping out of school and incarceration are all more likely outcomes for a poor reader. Children who are not proficient in reading by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out or fail to graduate from high school. For poor black and Hispanic students, that likelihood doubles, according to a report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. 

“While investing money in education is important, it’s even more important to target those funds with a specific purpose and goal,” Ortitay added. “Simply throwing money at the system doesn’t mean better results. A targeted approach with a goal and a way to measure the impact of that investment is a much better way and one that will result in a higher quality education system throughout Pennsylvania. This year’s budget did more of the same. It missed an opportunity to invest in one of the most important life skills children need and provide every school across the state with the funds and resources to implement this proven method of learning how to read. Let’s get back to basics with our schools and join the other states who have prioritized reading and seen amazing results.”

The 46th Legislative District includes South Fayette Township and McDonald and Oakdale boroughs in Allegheny County. It also encompasses Cecil, Chartiers, Mt. Pleasant and North Strabane (Districts 6,7,8 and 9) townships and Canonsburg, Houston and McDonald boroughs in Washington County.

Representative Jason Ortitay
46th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Tracy Polovick
RepOrtitay.com / Facebook.com/RepOrtitay