Mandatory kindergarten bill passes House, nears final passage

State News

BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – The bill that will make kindergarten mandatory has passed the House floor and once changes are approved in the Senate it will be sent to the governor’s desk. 

There was spirited debate and several attempts to add amendments before the final passage. The bill by Senator Cleo Fields has been fiercely debated the entire legislative session. It will make it so all children starting at age five must begin schooling in kindergarten. 

“Unfortunately, many of our kids are entering first grade not prepared,” Said Representative Jason Hughes. “There’s a reason that, as of 2019, 160,000 of our students in grade kindergarten to fifth grade cannot read.”

The goal of the bill was to help improve Louisiana’s education statistics, which places it among the bottom rankings of the states. Studies show that early childhood development is crucial leading up to age five. The state is already required by law to provide kindergarten but students do not have to attend. It is estimated around 2,800 kids do not enroll in kindergarten each year.

“I am tired of being last in our educational rankings,” Rep. Hughes said. “There is a reason we are behind Texas, there’s a reason we are behind Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia…we have an extraordinary opportunity to move the needle on education.”

Students will have the option of homeschooling if a parent does not want to send them to public or private school at that age. Those against the bill argued that parents have the best idea of when kids are ready to begin formal education.

“How do you promote parental choice by forcing a decision that should remain the purview of the parent as to whether or not their child is ready developmentally, emotionally, psychologically ready for formalized academic learning,” Rep. Beryl Amedee said.

She tried to amend the bill to keep the current compulsory education age at seven, but was shot down with arguments that seven-year-olds should not be placed in kindergarten. The one amendment added changed the date in which parents have until to decide how they will educate their kids when they turn five.

The bill will have to be approved by the Senate with the new amendment where it was overwhelmingly passed already. This is a bill that Governor John Bel Edwards was in major support of. When it heads to his desk he is expected to sign it.

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