Reading Recovery Lawsuit Trying to Prevent Science of Reading in Ohio Schools

Another education lawsuit has been filed against Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.

Governor Mike DeWine with Principal Miracle Reynolds (left), and Interim Superintendent/CEO of Columbus City Schools, Dr. Angela Chapman, observe the implementation of the Science of Reading program in the third grade classroom taught by Robin Thalgott, April 6, at Southwood Elementary School in Columbus, Ohio. (Graham Stokes/Ohio Capital Journal)

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A lawsuit is trying to prevent a new law from changing how Ohio students learn how to read.

Reading Recovery Council of North America, located in Worthington, filed a lawsuit on Oct. 3 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas to block the science of reading from being implemented in schools across the state.

The science of reading is based on decades of research that shows how the human brain learns to read and incorporates phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

Reading Recovery Council of North America’s reading intervention programs would be banned under the new law.

The association has seen a decline in Ohio school district memberships since the state budget was signed into law and a major portion of its operating revenue comes from annual membership fees paid by Ohio members, according to the lawsuit.

“The unconstitutional, improper and unlawful teaching, instructional and educational policy directives of the Ohio Legislature … directly and significantly impact RRCNA’s mission and outreach,” wrote David Yeagley, an attorney with Ulmer & Berne that filed the lawsuit.

DeWine’s press secretary Dan Tierney said the governor is disappointed this lawsuit has been filed.

“I truly believe there’s nothing more important than the science of reading, and making sure that every single child in the state of Ohio, as they are learning to read, has the benefit of the science,” DeWine said at a March 23 event. He has visited several schools to learn about how the science of reading method has been implemented in lessons.

State budget

A chunk of the state’s two-year operating budget goes towards implementing the science of reading — $86 million for educator professional development, $64 million for curriculum and instructional materials, and $18 million for literacy coaches.

DeWine, who first began advocating for the science of reading during his state of the state address back in January, signed the state budget in July. He originally put the science of reading in his proposed state budget and it remained, with some tweaks, as it went through the budget process.

“If permitted to take effect, it will allow the General Assembly to disguise a policy-based law in a must-pass appropriations bill,” the lawsuit said. “The literacy curriculum statute intrudes on classroom teaching and learning programs, models, methodologies and materials.”

The lawsuit argues the General Assembly is trying to set education policy and curriculum, infringing on the Ohio State Board of Education’s authority to oversee the Ohio education system.


The budget bans teachers from using the “three-cueing approach” in lessons unless a district or a school receives a waiver from the education department or a student has an individualized education program that specifically includes the “three-cueing approach.”

However, the lawsuit argues the budget fails to clearly articulate “a clear standard for assessing what teaching models or methods might be categorized under the “three-cueing” approach.”

The budget defines the “three-cueing approach” as any model of teaching students to read based on meaning, structure and syntax, and visual cues. The three-cueing method encourages children to read words by asking three questions: Does it make sense? Does it sound right? Does it look right?

Reading recovery is “often referred to or perceived as a “three-cueing” approach, and therefore is targeted as being anti-science of reading,” according to the lawsuit. “There are no recognized or established teaching, instructional or educational approaches that strictly and exclusively fall within either the “science of reading” or the “three-cueing approach.”

Louisiana, Arkansas and Virginia have laws that ban curriculum that includes three-cueing.

Other education lawsuit

This is the second education lawsuit filed against DeWine that relates back to the budget bill. Seven members of the Ohio State Board of Education filed a lawsuit against DeWine on Sept. 19 to block the transfer of power over Ohio K-12 education from the board to the governor’s office.

On Sept. 21,Franklin County Judge Karen Held Phipps issued a temporary restraining order that currently remains in place and is set to expire on Friday.

The lawsuit is trying to prevent the Ohio Department of Education from transitioning to the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce, which would create a cabinet-level director position and puts the department under the governor’s office. These changes would also limit the State Board of Education’s power to teacher disciplinary and licensure cases and territory disputes.

Ohio Capital Journal is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Ohio Capital Journal maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor David DeWitt for questions: info@ohiocapitaljournal.com. Follow Ohio Capital Journal on Facebook and Twitter.

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