BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana would make kindergarten mandatory if lawmakers agree to a bill that won support from a Senate committee.

The proposal from Senate Education Chairman Cleo Fields would require children who turn 5 years old by Sept. 30 of each year to attend kindergarten, starting with the 2022-23 school year. Children in Louisiana currently are required to attend school from the ages of 7 to 18, unless they graduate early from high school.

The education committee approved the bill on a 5-1 vote.

“Any message the state can send to parents of the importance of early education is supported,” said Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools Legal Director Sarah Vandergriff, who backs the legislation.

“All of the evidence about those very valuable early years tells us that kindergarten being mandatory is a big step towards helping children thrive,” said Executive Director of the Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families Susan East Nelson, who pointed out that research shows early education has a direct impact on learning and social skills.

But Homeschool Louisiana Government Affairs spokesperson Jesse Leger believes five-year-old's should be outside playing, not limited to a classroom setting. She also believes this places another burden on families who homeschool.

 

“We will have to report to the state two years earlier than we do now," said Leger. "It’s just another government overreach, which we’re not super happy about."

The bill advances to the Senate Floor but could be sent to the Senate Finance to address fiscal needs to provide kindergarten at all public schools.

(Brooke Thorington/Louisiana Radio Network contributed to this story)

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