Today, bi-partisan reforms were introduced in the state House and Senate to improve education outcomes for students who are Deaf, DeafBlind or Hard of Hearing.

“I am excited to introduce these landmark education reforms with my colleagues in the Legislative Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing Issues Caucus,” said Rep. Martin Howrylak, R-Troy, who sponsors House Bill 6005. “The bills in this package seek to improve early intervention, enhance language acquisition and provide equal access to educational opportunities for students who are Deaf, DeafBlind or Hard of Hearing.”

HB 6005 and 6006, and Senate Bills 1143 and 1144 would amend the Revised School Code to require the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) to develop language development milestones and conduct ongoing assessments for Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing children from birth to age eight. This assessment data will be reported on an annual basis to the Legislature and posted online for the general public.

“In order to be successful, every student must possess language and communication skills,” said Rep. Phil Phelps, sponsor of HB 6006. “Establishing benchmarks for language acquisition and requiring ongoing assessments will help parents and educators better understand the unique needs of each child.”

In addition, the legislation instructs MDE to work with a citizen advisory committee to develop a parent resource that will be distributed to all schools and childcare providers. This resource will stress the importance of language acquisition and educate parents on all the possible language options and tools available to help their child succeed.

“These reforms will ensure that all children with hearing loss, from mild to profound, receive appropriate services during critical periods of speech and language development,” said Ann Liming, representing the Hearing Loss Association of America, Michigan State Association. “Educating and empowering parents to advocate for their children as they work alongside educators and professionals will serve to build a strong base on which a child can build for future academic and professional success.”

Dallas Barker, a retired Deaf teacher and a member of Michigan Deaf Rights Advocates, concurred the benefits of the bills in this package go far beyond the classroom.

“If you want Deaf children to succeed academically, socially, and emotionally, then you need to give them access to all forms of language and communication from the very beginning, which includes American Sign Language and English,” he said.

Lastly, the package will establish a Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing Children’s Educational Bill of Rights. If enacted, these guidelines will make certain children in these communities receive the same quality educational opportunities and access to extracurricular activities as their peers.

“Children who are Deaf, DeafBlind, or Hard of Hearing have the right to have their language and communication needs met at school,” said Senator Rebekah Warren, sponsor of Senate Bill 1143. “This legislation will help to ensure that they receive the resources and support they need to achieve their full potential.”

Several other states, including Kansas, California, and Hawaii have passed similar legislation, which is commonly referred to as LEAD-K. This initiative is designed to ensure early intervention to improve kindergarten readiness and language acquisition for all Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing children. The package was introduced in both the House and Senate for consideration.

For more information, contact Rep. Phelp’s office at (517) 373-7515, Sen. Warren by phone at (517) 373-2406 or by email to senrwarren@senate.michigan.gov , and Rep. Howrylak by phone toll free at 1-877-248-0001, or by email at MartinHowrylak@house.mi.gov.

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