All 5-year-olds living in New York City would be required to attend kindergarten if New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs legislation approved last week by the state legislature.
The new state law is targeted only to New York City. It would authorize that district to reduce the compulsory age for starting school from 6 years old to 5 years old, making kindergarten mandatory for all city kids who turn 5 by December 1, according to a story in The New York Times. Current state law requires kids to enroll in school by 1st grade, although many children across the state do attend kindergarten. Only Syracuse currently requires all children to attend kindergarten.
The law would not impact parents who opt to wait until the following September to enroll their kids or students who are homeschooled or enrolled in private schools.
The voluntary nature of kindergarten means that some public schools have turned away kids, citing lack of space or limited resources to deal with behavioral and other issues, according to news reports. The new law would create kindergarten access for about 2,500 more city kids from mostly poor and minority communities, a memo attached to the legislation says.
According to the legislative memo, about 7 percent more kids, on average, attend 1st grade than kindergarten in New York City public schools.
“Community-based organizations report that some of the city’s most vulnerable children—including English-language learners, children with special needs, and foster children—are sometimes told that 5-year-olds are not required to go to school and are turned away,” the legislative memo states. “This indicates that some of the city’s neediest children may not be getting the early start they need for success.”
Cuomo has until the first week of July to sign or veto the legislation before it automatically becomes law.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.