Senators Back Mandatory Kindergarten Bill for Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana would make kindergarten mandatory if lawmakers agree to a bill that won support Wednesday 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. People who homeschool their children would be required to start with kindergarten.

Under current state law, children in Louisiana are required to attend school from the ages of 7 to 18, unless they graduate early from high school.

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Fields’ committee approved the bill on a 5-1 vote, sending it to the Senate floor. It is expected to be diverted to a second hearing before the Senate budget committee because it could cost the state millions more each year by adding more students to public school rolls.

Fields, a Baton Rouge Democrat, and other supporters of the measure say mandatory kindergarten promotes early childhood education. They point to studies showing 90% of brain development happens between birth and age 5.

Opponents include a state homeschool association and the conservative Louisiana Family Forum. They argue that parents are best equipped to make decisions about the education of their children.

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Voting for the bill were Sens. Mark Abraham, R-Lake Charles; Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe; Robert Mills, R-Minden; Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge; and Bodi White, R-Central. Voting against the bill was Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton. Fields, as chairman, didn’t vote.

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