Mandatory kindergarten could be coming to Louisiana

A bill that would make kindergarten mandatory in Louisiana cleared its first hurdle today when the Senate Education Committee moved it forward after at least one member said she didn’t know it wasn’t already required.

SB10 by Senate Education Committee Chair Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, would require children who turn 5 before Sept. 30 of a school year to attend kindergarten or the home schooling equivalent.

Members voted 5-1 in favor of the bill with only Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, objecting, The News Star reports

Almost all of Louisiana’s eligible children already voluntarily attend kindergarten, which is required to be offered in all 69 of the state’s school districts. More than 50,000 students were enrolled in kindergarten last fall, while an estimated 2,800 eligible children didn’t attend. Adding those children would cost the state about $2 million per year.

Susan East Nelson of the Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families says making kindergarten mandatory is among the recommendations in her agency’s platform. 

But others believe the decision on whether to send a child to kindergarten is best left to the parents.

“Some of (the children) just aren’t ready,” says Jessie Leger of Home School Louisiana. “We should allow parents to choose what’s best for their children.”

That was the sentiment of the others opposing the bill, including Mizell and Dale Hoffpauir of the Louisiana Family Forum.

Previous efforts to make kindergarten mandatory in 2005, 2008 and 2012 failed, but Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards supports Fields’ effort this year. Read the full story.