The inability of 4-year-old children to behave themselves has been a major factor behind a Michigan bill that would move up the date by which children would have to turn 5 years old in order to attend kindergarten that school year.
Right now, Michigan law states that any student who turns 5 years old by Dec. 1 can attend kindergarten in that school year. The bill, which passed the state Senate unanimously, would move that cut-off date to Nov. 1 for the 2013-14 school year, Oct. 1 for 2014-15, and Sept. 1 for 2015-16.
As Dave Murray reported for Michigan Live, state lawmakers say teachers have told them that having fewer 4-year-old students in kindergarten will help the learning experience of other students.
“It’s not that the kids aren’t smart enough. There are behavioral issues, and a large percent are those 4-year-olds. That takes away from the rest of the children,” state Sen. Darwin Booher (R), the legislation’s sponsor, told Murray.
Legislators also have their eye on the savings the bill would create. In the 2013-14, an analysis of the bill’s fiscal impact estimates that 7,000 fewer children would be allowed to enter kindergarten in 2013-14, saving $50 million. However, an exception in the law for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years would allow children who turn 5 after the cut-off dates to enroll in kindergarten in that school year, if their parents and guardians notified the school districts by June 1 of their intent to send their children to kindergarten in the upcoming year. That exception would be eliminated in 2015-16.
“It should also be noted that any savings occurring because of a smaller pool of children entering kindergarten would continue as that smaller cohort moved through the K-12 system,” the analysis attached to the bill states.
An analysis from May 2011 by the Education Commission of the States showed that a majority of states (26) and the District of Columbia set their kindergarten age cut-off date in September. Two states, Connecticut and Vermont, set their cut-off dates in January (although Vermont gives local education agencies discretion to set their dates as late as Jan. 1).
In related news, Alabama lawmakers just approved lowering the compulsory attendance age from 7 to 6 in state schools, although parents can apply for an exception.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.