Dyslexia & Literacy Legislation

Wisconsin Legislative Council Study Committee on the Identification and Management of Dyslexia

The primary responsibility Joint Legislative Council establish committees to study major issues and problems identified by the Legislature, mostly during the interim in the even-numbered years.

In 2018, there was a Legislative Council Study Committee on the Identification and Management of Dyslexia chaired by Representative Kulp and Senator Schactner.

(1:34) Morning Minute: WI Legislative Council Study Committee on Dyslexia, 7/11/2018

National Dyslexia Legislation

The First Step Act was passed overwhelmingly in both houses of Congress and signed into law by President Trump on December 21, 2018. Public Law 115-391 provides a definition of dyslexia:

"The term 'dyslexia' means an unexpected difficulty in reading for an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader, most commonly cause by a difficulty in the phonological processing (the application of the individual sounds of spoken language), which affects the ability of an individual to speak, read, and spell."

In addition, the First Step Act includes a dyslexia screening provision. Dr. Cassidy, a Senator from Maryland stated in a press release, “Having treated patients in prisons, I learned that illiteracy often leads someone to turn to a life of crime. Dyslexia is a leading cause of illiteracy, so to address illiteracy and incarceration, we must better address dyslexia” (Cassidy, 2018).

The First Step Act was informed by a study published in the Texas Medical Journal which found that approximately 80% of prison inmates are functionally illiterate, with poor single word decoding (the chief feature of dyslexia) accounting for a significant percentage of that rate (Moody et al., 2000).

According to the National Center on Improving Literacy, currently 48 states have passed one or more bills that address dyslexia as it related to K-12 education. State legislation addressed a number of related issues including requirements for screening, pre-service teacher training, in-service teacher training, and intervention.

WI - 43rd State to Pass Dyslexia Legislation

In 2018, the WI legislature began learning about the impact of dyslexia with the Legislative Council Study Committee on the Identification and Management of Dyslexia, which resulted in multiple Joint Legislative Council Recommendations to the 2019-20 Legislature:

The “Dyslexia Bill,” 2019 Wisconsin Act 86, required the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to collaborate with an advisory committee comprised of individuals representing the Wisconsin Branch of the International Dyslexia Association (WIBIDA) and the Wisconsin State Reading Association (WSRA) to create an informational guidebook about dyslexia and related conditions. As required by Act 86, the guidebook contains:

  • Screening processes and tools available to identify dyslexia and related conditions

  • Interventions and instructional strategies that have been shown to improve academic performance of pupils with dyslexia and related conditions

  • Resources and services related to dyslexia and related conditions

The informational guidebook will be updated every three years, is shared on DPI’s website, and must be linked on every Wisconsin school district's website.

National Dyslexia Screening Legislation

As of January 2022, the National Center on Improving Literacy reported that 39 states have legislation that requires dyslexia screening, including all the states that border Wisconsin.

Map of States with Legislation Requiring Screening for Dyslexia

Wisconsin Foundational Reading Skills & Dyslexia Screening Legislation

"The Reading Readiness Roadmap", 2021 - SB454, mirrored evidence-aligned legislation in other states and gained bi-partisan support in the Wisconsin legislature.

(1:21) WisEye Morning Minute: Requiring Additional Literacy Screenings for K-2 Students, 9/15/21

(1:47) WisEye Morning Minute: Assembly Education Committee on Reading Readiness Assessments, 10/22/21

(1:40) Sen. Kathy Bernier discusses Roadmap to Reading Success, Senate GOP Weekly Radio Address, 12/10/21

On November 5, 2021 Governor Evers vetoed SB454 in its entirety.

On January 11, 2022, Senator Kathy Bernier and Representative Joel Kitchens introduced an amendment to the Roadmap to Reading Success - Assembly Amendment 2, to Assembly Bill 446.

On April 8, 2022 Governor Evers vetoed AB446 in its entirety,

States that are demonstrating improvement in student performance on the NAEP assessment of reading have legislation in the following areas:

  • Florida: Screening, pre-service, in-service, and intervention

  • Massachusetts: Screening

  • Mississippi: Screening and intervention

Literacy and ESSER III Funding

The Joint Finance Committee took up the Department of Public Instruction's (DPI) request for approval of a plan for the receipt of federal funds under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in May 2021.

DPI ARPA Plan was modified with the adoption of Motion 57 on November 4, 2021. On January 13, 2022, DPI submitted a modified ESSER III plan to the Joint Finance Committee which updated the Reading Program timelines in Motion 57 and is summarized in a January 19, 2022 Memorandum to the Joint Finance Committee. Once approved by the Committee, the proposal is subject to final approval by the federal United States Department of Education. The plan was determined to be complete by the Co-Chairs on January 19, 2022. Upon approval from the Federal Government, Wisconsin's ESSER Funding plan will include:

Item 8a (NEW proposed deadline December 1, 2022; waiver could be requested to award funds through 2023)

Reimbursement of up to $4,000.00 to school districts and CESAs for direct course costs for staff to attend literacy training, including:

Item 8b (NEW proposed timeline 2021-2022 or 2022-2023 school year)

Grants of up to $25,000 for CESAs that hosts professional development for principals and administrators in early literacy, evidence-based reading instruction, and systems. Specific qualifications are outlined in item 8b. Example providers may include:

Item 8c (NEW proposed deadline July 31, 2022)

Grants of up to $75,000 to expand evidence-based literacy training at CESA 8 Literacy Center and CESA 9 Academy of Foundational Literacy.

Item 8d

Competitive grants of up to $65,000.00 for CESAs to provide evidence-aligned early literacy audits, adoption of comprehensive evidence-aligned systems and structures, and evidence aligned training and coaching in structured literacy.

Item 8e (NEW timeline - DPI request for bids/proposals by May 1, 2022 and retain an organization by June 1, 2022)

$600,000.00 for independent landscape analysis of teacher preparation programs.

Item 8f (NEW - requires DPI to request a waiver to ensure that funds could be awarded through 2023)

Up to $100,000 to UW system teacher preparation programs participating in the landscape analysis under 8e to address and implement recommendations from the report within 24 months.

Item 8g

Funds unused within 1 year can be used for reimbursement to schools and CESA for direct course costs (Item 8a) and CESAs to expand evidence-based literacy audits, instruction, and coaching (Item 8d).

Podcasts & Videos ESSER Funding

The Courts and Dyslexia

10/12/21 - Rogich et al v. Clark County School District

  • The Clark County School District violated the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act “both substantively and procedurally” by failing to ensure that the student received instruction using a specific teaching method developed for students with dyslexia.

  • The district was ordered to reimburse the family $456,990.60 for private school tuition and transportation costs.

7/8/2021 - Student A. et al. v. Berkeley Unified School District Class Action Settlement Agreement

  • Class action lawsuit filed by four current and former Berkeley Unified School District (“BUSD”) students with reading disorders, including dyslexia

  • Claimed that BUSD discriminates against and fails to provide students with reading disabilities a Free Appropriate Public Education (“FAPE”), to which they are entitled to under federal and state law

  • The settlement reached requires BUSD to work collaboratively with nationally recognized outside consultants to develop and implement a Literacy Improvement Plan to improve reading and language arts achievement for all students, and especially those with or at risk for reading disabilities, including:

      • Provide professional development for all staff and administrators.

      • Identify students at risk for reading disabilities through universal screening.

      • Use universal screening to inform early intervention.

      • Implement a grades K-8 system of fall, winter and spring reading benchmark assessments including, but not limited to, letter-sound correspondence, diagnostic surveys of print knowledge, phoneme awareness, phonics, word reading, spelling, written expression, and reading fluency.

      • Align Tier 2 and Tier 3 reading interventions with the International Dyslexia Association’s Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading and prohibit the use of Fountas & Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention or Reading Recovery except in “exceptional circumstances,”

      • Transition from using the severe discrepancy model to use of the Pattern of Strengths and Weaknesses Model Weaknesses for specific learning disability eligibility.

      • Monitor implementation with quarterly reports to the school board.

      • Pay $350,000 in attorney’s fees.

3/01/21 - Minnetonka Public Schools, Independent School District No. 276 v. M.L.K.

  • Upheld a lower court's ruling that the Minnetonka Schools were in violation of civil rights education law

  • "The District's failure to identify Student's dyslexia prevented the District from designing an appropriate remedy for his lack of learning progress and thereby deprived Student of educational benefits." - Federal Judge Donovan Frank

  • 7/22/21 - Minnetonka Public Schools (District 276 - Minnetonka, Minnesota) filed an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit

  • 12/15/21 - Oral arguments heard by a panel of three federal judges

3/11/2020 - Preciado v Board of Education of Clovis Municipal Schools

  • Upheld finding that the District violated the IDEA's requirement that a parent be an important member of the IEP team by failing adequately to explain Student's Istation scores to Parent

  • Affirmed orders for the District to:

      • Either forgo reliance on Istation in future IEPs, or come to IEP meetings ready to explain how Student's Istation results affect her IEP.

      • Hire a facilitator for future IEP meetings.

      • Pay for an advocate to appear at the meetings on Parent's behalf.

  • Upheld finding that District denied Student a free appropriate public education ("FAPE") under the IDEA by:

(1) Relying on Istation scores to gauge her academic progress,

(2) Failing to provide Student with proper, specialized instruction in important reading programs like Orton-Gillingham,

(3) Improperly decreasing the expectations in Student's IEP to make it easier for Student to meet the IEP's goals, and

(4) Failing to follow the IEP requirements that Student receive 300 minutes in special-education reading instruction and 150 minutes in special-education writing instruction per week.

  • Affirmed the following remedies:

(1) The District must maintain Student in special education through at least the conclusion of sixth grade;

(2) The District must give Student compensatory education in reading, writing, and spelling in the form of 1/1 time with a licensed special-education teacher trained in Orton-Gillingham or similar programs;

(3) Student must receive an independent assistive technology evaluation, including to determine whether she should receive audiobooks; and

(4) The next IEP meeting must be a facilitated IEP, with Parent receiving adequate information to meaningfully participate in it.

  • Upheld finding that District violated the IDEA by failing to evaluate whether Student required audio versions of assigned text to make appropriate progress.

  • The Court does not find that Student's absences prevented her from receiving a FAPE.

8/29/ 2011 - Ohio Department of Education Complaint #CP-0130-2011, Letter of Findings

  • Upper Arlington Schools was in violation of federal and state law when it came to promptly and properly identifying students with learning disabilities and finding them eligible for special education.

Additional Resources


Figure 1. National Center on Improving Literacy. (2022). Map of states with legislation requiring screening for dyslexia [Infographic]. State of Dyslexia | National Center on Improving Literacy. Retrieved January 9, 2022, from https://improvingliteracy.org/state-of-dyslexia


2019 Wisconsin Act 86, 2019 A. B. 110 (Wis. 2020). https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2019/related/acts/86

Cassidy, B., M. D. (2018, December 17). Cassidy announces dyslexia screening provision included in new criminal justice reform bill | U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana [Press release]. https://www.cassidy.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/cassidy-announces-dyslexia-screening-provision-included-in-new-criminal-justice-reform-bill

Decoding Dyslexia CA. (2021, July 24). Breaking news: Federal class action dyslexia lawsuit settlement reached against a CA school district! [blog]. Decoding Dyslexia CA. https://decodingdyslexiaca.org/blog/breaking-news-federal-class-action-dyslexia-lawsuit-settlement-reached-against-a-ca-school-district

First Step Act of 2018, Pub. L. No. 115–391, 115th Cong. (2018). https://www.congress.gov/115/plaws/publ391/PLAW-115publ391.pdf

Markovich, A. (2021, August 2). Berkeley Unified will settle suit claiming it failed students with reading disorders. Berkeleyside. https://www.berkeleyside.org/2021/07/30/berkeley-unified-school-district-lawsuit-settlement-agreement-reading-dyslexia-services

Minnetonka Public Schools, Independent School District No. 276 v. M.L.K., No. 0:2020cv01036 - Document 32 (D. Minn. 2021). https://img1.wsimg.com/blobby/go/bb2f5bc8-d1d1-4900-b5d6-a0b05aac25a7/District%20Court%20Memorandum%20Opinion%20and%20Order.pdf

Moody, K. C., Holzer, C. E., 3rd, Roman, M. J., Paulsen, K. A., Freeman, D. H., Haynes, M., & James, T. N. (2000). Prevalence of dyslexia among Texas prison inmates. Texas medicine, 96(6), 69–75.

National Center on Improving Literacy. (2022). State of dyslexia | National Center on Improving Literacy. Retrieved January 9, 2022, from https://improvingliteracy.org/state-of-dyslexia

Preciado v. Bd. of Educ. of Clovis Municipal Sch., 443 F. Supp. 3d 1289 (2020). https://www.leagle.com/decision/infdco20200312c08

Student A v. Berkeley Unified School District, No. 3:17-cv-02510-JST (2020). https://dredf.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Class-Action-Settlement-Agreement.pdf

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (2021). Motion # 57: Modify DPI ARPA Plan. https://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/imce/policy-budget/pdf/JCF_motion_57_ESSER_III.pdf