Laws Tailored to Benefit Specific Interest Groups
At times, laws are proposed which appear on the surface to be beneficial to individuals with dyslexia or other learning disabilities, are worded in a way to promote a specific interest group above others, and to restrict current and future development of options for the people supposedly served by the law.
Examples are laws which provide for educational services to schoolchildren, but then purport to limit the types of services that may be offered based on preference of one methodology over another; or laws imposing standards on training or licensing of teachers that force training via the auspices of a private organization (as opposed to an accredited college or university).
It is easy to see why these bills gain traction: they are proposed by organizations with the resources to lobby for them, who may be motivated to protect their own economic interests.
In evaluating legislation, we suggest keeping these guidelines in mind:
- As noted in our statement on Scientifically Based Research the US Department of Education (What Works Clearinghouse) has been unable to identify any single methodology or approach to dyslexia that is supported by strong research. It is thus premature to require schools to provide any particular form of teaching or remediation, unless the law is written in such a way as to provide opportunities for further research and development, and for an individualized approach to education.
- Federal law requires that children with learning disabilities be provided with an “individualized” education plan. It is unlikely that any single form of remediation or teaching is comprehensive enough to meet the needs of each and every dyslexic student. For example, one child may benefit from instruction in phonics whereas a different child might need a program focused on reading comprehension skills.
- States should not delegate regulatory function to private organizations, whether or not operating for profit. Laws which allow outside non-governmental organizations to set standards for teaching or provision of dyslexia services are undemocratic and foreclose the opportunity of individuals or organizations with a differing viewpoint to participate in the development of the standards. In some cases, such laws could potentially violate other state laws requiring open meetings or records for the regulatory process. It is thus more appropriate to delegate authority to a public commission or a state agency already charged with educational regulation.
- Where possible, regulatory language should be framed in a way that is inclusive rather than exclusive. No child should be denied meaningful help because of well-meaning legislation with unintended consequences due to overly restrictive language.
For an in-depth look at how dyslexia legislation advocated by special interest groups may limit the range of educational options available to dyslexic schoolchildren, see:
- Gabriel, Rachael E. Converting to Privatization: A Discourse Analysis of Dyslexia Policy Narratives. American Educational Research Journal, 2019 | DOI: 10.3102/0002831219861945
- Worthy, J., Svrcek, N., Daly-Lesch, A., & Tily, S. “We Know for a Fact”: Dyslexia Interventionists and the Power of Authoritative Discourse. Journal of Literacy Research, 50(3), 2018. | DOI: 10.1177/1086296X18784759