Proposed bill could pay for third-party dyslexia service providers in Iowa schools

A bill making its way through the Iowa Legislature could help families pay for extra help for their kids with dyslexia.
Published: Mar. 27, 2022 at 11:55 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - A bill making its way through the Iowa legislature could help pay for extra support for kids with dyslexia.

If passed, House Bill 2543 would allow schools to contract with third-party dyslexia service providers. As of right now, students who qualify for special education receive services from the Area Education Agency that serves their school’s district. Those services are part of Iowa’s public school system and so are free, but many parents feel that they don’t do enough to close the gap between students with dyslexia and their peers.

Wendy Kepford, of Waverly, has a spouse and three kids with dyslexia. Two of her kids are now in college and one is a senior in high school. She feels that the services that are currently offered fall short.

“It’s not enough. And that’s it,” Kepford said. “It’s just not enough.”

Kepford said kids with dyslexia need special instruction.

“Very specific interventions are what a kid needs. They need a structured literacy program. They need one-on-one instruction or small group instruction,” Kepford said.

Megan Hunemuller, another parent in the Waverly area with a child with dyslexia, said that it took great effort from parents to advocate for something like that kind of instruction.

“We finally fought and got them to bring in what’s called Wilson, which is a dyslexia curriculum that they’re teaching her,” Hunemuller said.

Kepford said her kids’ dyslexia is “severe.”

“It takes a lot to have those kids close the gap. And it’s hard to fit everything they needed into the school day,” Kepford said.

Kepford believes that the potential costs of providing the special instruction is more than worth it.

“Do they not have the same value as a kid who is talented and gifted and gets to go special?” Kepford said.

Right now, both Kepford and Hunemuller think their kids needed more help than they were getting from the schools, so they have both have paid for private tutoring. Hunemuller’s daughter gets tutoring during the summer months while many kids take a break from instruction.

“I can’t even tell you the thousands and thousands of dollars we’ve spent, and we’ve been lucky to be able to do that for our kids,” Kepford said.

Rep. Megan Jones, a Republican state representative from northwest Iowa and the sponsor of the bill, said she heard similar stories of parents paying out-of-pocket for services they felt their kids needed but weren’t getting from the system. She said the goal of the bill is “to find another avenue to help these families find the resources that they need but then also not add another thing to a teacher’s plate.”

Jones said she was “pretty optimistic” the bill would become law.

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