03/29/07 — Bill sets earlier kindergarten cutoff

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Bill sets earlier kindergarten cutoff

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on March 29, 2007 1:46 PM

A member of the state House Committee on Education, Rep. Louis Pate, R-Wayne, is supporting a measure to push the cutoff date for children entering kindergarten up by two-and-a-half months.

Currently, children must be 5 years old by Oct. 16. The new legislation would change that date to Aug. 31.

"I think that'll do a lot to help public education and our children. Kindergarten is pretty rigorous these days because it is preparation for the end-of-grade tests in the third grade," Pate, one of the primary sponsors, said. "With school starting in August, we have children entering kindergarten who have not yet reached their fifth birthday and we some children entering who are as much as 6 years old.

"You have a pretty big difference in age and at that age, there's a quite a bit of difference in children.

"With this bill, a child will be 5 years old basically within a couple of weeks of the start date."

Brodgen Primary School Principal Wendy Hooks sees the change as a good thing.

"It would put everybody on the same playing field. I do feel like some of our 4-year-olds are just not ready for the standards we have to teach in kindergarten," she said. "If you back it up to the beginning of school, all those children turning 5 would go to school together."

And, Pate continued, basically all it does is codify something that many parents are already doing -- holding their children back until they are more physically and mentally matured.

"The parents see the validity of this," Pate said.

The measure has already been unanimously approved by the education committee and is waiting to be debated on the House floor.

It is, Pate continued, something that's been in the works for several years.

"It's not something (educators) were actively pushing for, but it's something they support. The idea has been discussed for some time. I think the feeling of many professional educators is that this is an important bill," he said.

If ultimately approved by both chambers of the General Assembly and signed by the governor, the change will go into effect for the 2009-10 school year. It is expected to affect more than 15,000 children.

"That will give parents time to adjust," Pate said.