What’s the Latest on Universal Screening for Risk of Dyslexia?

Countless families, advocates, teachers and other professionals throughout California are feeling encouraged as universal screening for reading difficulties, including risk of dyslexia, has been included in Governor Newsom’s May Revision of the budget.


On May 12, Governor Newsom declared early literacy and dyslexia risk screening a top priority in the state of California by including annual kindergarten through second grade universal screening for reading difficulties, including risk of dyslexia, in his revised budget plan (May Revision).

After years of tenacious efforts to pass universal screening legislation, most recently as a co-sponsor of Senator Anthony Portantino’s Senate Bill 691 (SB 691), DDCA is thrilled with the Governor’s dedication to this critical literacy issue.

The May Revision and the trailer bill include details on the money the Governor has budgeted to ensure the appropriate screening tools are vetted by a panel of experts, as well as a timeline of universal screening implementation. To read the excerpts pertaining to K-2 annual screening in the Governor’s budget and proposed trailer bill, as originally introduced on May 12, please click here.

The next step towards universal screening becoming a reality is for the California Legislature to pass the May Revision. This process is more complicated than passing other bills. It involves a fiscal track for the “budget bill” followed by the policy track for the “trailer bill.”

In brief, the next steps as of June 2nd are:

  1. Fiscal Track – The Senate Budget Committee will consider this proposal as part of adopting the Senate’s proposed budget.
  2. Fiscal Track – The Assembly and Senate may meet in “conference committee” to resolve any remaining differences between the two houses’ budget plans.
  3. Fiscal Track – The budget bill must be approved by both the Senate and Assembly by June 15th and signed by the Governor by June 30th.
  4. Policy Track – The trailer bill, which will include the implementation language, is not subject to the same deadlines. Often trailer bills are passed right after the budget bill, or before summer recess (July 14th), but trailer bills may be passed any time before the legislative session convenes on September 15th. Trailer bill language will appear in an official bill once the Senate, Assembly, and Governor’s Office agree on the language. The trailer bill must be approved by the Budget Committees of both the Senate and the Assembly, voted for approval on the Floor of both houses, and signed by the Governor by October 14th. 

In summary, the fiscal track must be completed by June 30th and the policy track must be completed on or before October 14th.

We are encouraged that K-2 universal screening has the support of Governor Newsom and hope you will follow the budget and trailer bills’ journeys with us. DDCA would like to especially acknowledge Senator Portantino for his tenacity and continuous advocacy on this important issue. In addition, special thanks to EdVoice, California State PTA, and the over 50 supporting organizations that have demonstrated their support through letters, phone calls and public comments at various legislative hearings.

We will keep you posted on further developments and let you know if there is a need for action. Be sure to read EdSource’s May 12 article on universal screening being added to the May Revision, and please encourage friends, family and colleagues to sign up for DDCA’s emails.

SB 691 (K-2 Universal Screening for Risk of Dyslexia) Unanimously Passed Senate Education Committee

There are no better advocates than parents, guardians, educators, and other professionals who have witnessed injustice to children and have hope for a better future.

SB 691 (K-2 Universal Screening for Risk of Dyslexia) passes unanimously in the Senate Education Committee!HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE HEARING
March 29, 2023:

It was an exciting day at the Capitol for California literacy advocates! Parents, educators, school board members, city and county representatives, and advocacy organizations traveled from all around the state to fill the Senate Education Committee room. The SB 691 hearing began with author Senator Portantino (D-Burbank) introducing the bill, highlighting that California is behind forty other states, where early universal screening is already required. He spoke to the need to do better for our English Learners and the role screening would play in supporting these students, and all students. He highlighted that this is a bipartisan bill with 33 co-authors to right a social injustice.

With an allotted two minutes each, witness testimony was given by DDCA Co-State Director Megan Potente and DDCA parent advocate Maria Daisy Ortiz, who flew in from Los Angeles with her daughter for the hearing. Megan urged the committee to follow science and vote aye on SB 691 to end the harm imposed by a wait-to-fail model. Identifying risk early is a critical step in solving the school-to-prison pipeline.

Daisy’s testimony centered on how her daughter’s difficulties were assumed to be due to her being an English Learner, not related to difficulties with reading. Screening would have detected her reading challenges much earlier, in K-2, during the most impactful time for intervention. Daisy also highlighted her advocacy work in supporting other families in her community.

Next up, public comment and the range of speakers on behalf of SB 691 were inspiring. Parents, teachers, school board members, pediatricians, and others spoke with urgency, some in languages other than English. A representative of the California Federation of Teachers (CFT), CA’s second largest teachers’ union stated they are considering support of SB 691 if amended. Representatives from groups including the California Association of School Psychologists (CASP), the California Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA), Disability Rights of California, and the Board of Supervisors for the City and County of San Francisco also spoke in support. [Note: The SB 691 bill analysis shared with the Committee members has a total of 52 supporting organizations listed and 3 organizations showing in opposition.]In opposition, representatives from the California Teachers’ Association (CTA) and California Association of Bilingual Educators (CABE) gave testimony, and Californians Together (CalTog) provided a “Me Too” in opposition to the bill. [Please see link to complete hearing below. Opposition testimony is from approximately 1:19:25 – 1:24:04.] The three organizations’ positions mirrored their letters of opposition filed last week, pushing back primarily on the logistics and cost of implementation and timing of the bill. These three organizations opposed last year’s bill, SB 237. Senator Portantino’s office is in ongoing discussions with these organizations.Committee discussion of SB 691 by Senate members followed including an emotional speech by Education Committee member and SB 691 principal co-author, Senator Scott Wilk.

The members then voted unanimously (7-0) to pass SB 691! Senator Portantino ended with the following: “You are never going to get first grade back. We’re going to save money. We’re going to help kids.”We hope you will watch the recording of the inspiring meeting for yourselves:
Senate Education Committee Hearing March 29, 2023

  • Complete SB 691 hearing starts at approximately 56:08 to 1:58:06
  • Live “Me Too” comments start at approximately 1:09:13
  • Call-in “Me Too” comments start at approximately 1:24:23

What’s next on SB 691’s journey? The bill has been set for hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee on April 10 at 10:00 a.m.One thing was clear at the Senate Education Committee hearing on March 29th: DDCA is a far-reaching grassroots powerhouse. There are no better advocates than parents, guardians, educators, and other professionals who have witnessed injustice to children and have hope for a better future. Please stay with us as we march forward to pass SB 691, a first step in ending wait-to-fail in California.Want to learn more about SB 691 and sign the online petition? Go to YESonSB691.com.Please encourage family, friends, and colleagues to sign up for DDCA emails to stay informed on dyslexia-related efforts in California.