Fairview Alpha Elementary School kindergarten student Cain Stewart uses pen and paper to write vocabulary words Friday morning. A bill just passed the senate to make kindergarten mandatory. Proponents of the bill say introduction to literacy at age 5 is crucial to success and development. See story on Page 3A Photo courtesy of FAE

Louisiana Senate calls for mandatory kindergarten

The Louisiana Senate voted Wednesday to make kindergarten mandatory statewide. Sen. Cleo Fields, the Baton Rouge Democrat who authored Senate Bill 10, cited research indicating most of a child’s brain development happens between birth and age 5.

This article published in the May 15-16, 2021, print edition

A wide range of education and business groups support the bill. “Investing in early childhood education just makes good business sense,” Fields said. Fields said the change would have “zero fiscal impact.”

I personally feel it’s about time because of the change in curriculum. The children that don’t attend preschool are already at a disadvantage because of kindergarten expectations on day one. Children that do not attend kindergarten are at risk of being two-three years behind their classmates. Now, having said that, I do believe strongly that the child must be 5 on or before Aug. 1. We know all too well the gap. My preschoolers that enter at 3 and turn 4 typically are those that could benefit from the cutoff day being earlier, and the same goes for kindergarten. ~Crystal Pierce, preschool teacher and former kindergarten teacher, Fairview Alpha

Kindergartener Jaxon Blanchard utilizes a tablet and reading program to improve literacy skills

The Legislative Fiscal Office estimated the increase in kindergarten enrollment would cost between $2 million and $12 million. Gov. John Bel Edwards, who supports SB 10 as part of his legislative package, said any additional cost easily can be absorbed within the $3.9 billion state K-12 funding formula. About 2,800 kindergarten-age children in Louisiana don’t attend school, Fields said.

Londyn McNeal, a kindergarten student at Fairview Alpha Elementary uses technology to learn to read.

The Department of Education reported a 5.6% decrease in kindergarten enrollment this year, he said. Parents or guardians of a child who turns 5 on or before Sept. 30 generally would be required to enroll the child in kindergarten. Kindergarten students in an approved homeschool program would be in compliance, though families would be required to report student attendance to the state Department of Education.

As an early childhood Principal, I fully support the new mandatory Kindergarten legislation. Introducing a child to a literacy rich, developmentally appropriate learning environment at age five greatly increases their chance of a successful, literacy filled life as an adult. Natalie Ducote, Principal, LP Vaughn Elementary

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia require children attend kindergarten, according to the Education Commission of the States. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia require full-day kindergarten, and 39 states plus D.C. require districts to offer kindergarten either full- or half-day.

Carter Telsee is a kindergarten student at FAE. He uses a tablet to hear and read a story.

As someone who taught kindergarten for 18 years, I feel it is critical for children to attend kindergarten. Kindergarten is where foundational skills are taught and if a child skips kindergarten and goes to first grade they will automatically be behind. I am very pleased that the Senate passed this. ~Brooke Williams, Fairview Alpha Principal

Senators voted 34-1 to send SB 10 to the House for consideration.