Texas House Speaker Bonnen's Dyslexia Gives Him Unique View of Learning Disability Funding Issue

AUSTIN -- Dennis Bonnen was supposed to speak to an assembly of elementary students in his district about his work as a state representative in Austin.But instead, the Angleton Republican decided to get personal.He told them about his experience with dyslexia and how he struggled to keep up in school. “It has nothing to do with your intelligence,” he told the group of students. “You just learn in different ways. You handle things differently.”A young boy approached Bonnen afterward to ask for his autograph, trailed by his mother, who had tears running down her cheeks.“He had dyslexia and had been struggling, had been discouraged that he could not learn the way other kids could,” said Linda Winder, a former staffer who accompanied Bonnen on that trip. “The fact that Dennis was telling him that made a big difference to him and the mother.”Through his 22-year career in the Texas House, first-term Speaker Dennis Bonnen has earned a reputation as a pugnacious lawmaker known for jabbing his finger in the face of someone on the opposing side of a bill and shutting down witnesses trying to argue against bills in his committees. News outlets have referred to him as ‘Dennis the Menace’ for his combative demeanor, and he’s returned the favor in kind, aggressively challenging the premise of their questions and dismissing the criticisms in their stories.But on the issue of public education, and especially kids with special learning needs, those close to him say Bonnen, 47, has a soft side.“Dennis has a very warm heart for little kids,” said Winder, who was also one of Bonnen’s high school teachers. “He can be tough on some other things ... [but] he identifies with hey, there are kids out there that are struggling and we need to help them. He’s very, very serious about that.”In his first legislative session as House speaker, Bonnen is championing a school finance overhaul that would among other things give additional funding to schools to help students with dyslexia.  Continue reading...

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