Published: April 21, 2021
By: Emily Wood, LSU Manship School News Service
The Senate Education Committee voted 5-1 Wednesday to advance a bill that requires mandatory kindergarten and school attendance for Louisiana children beginning at age five.
“We have about 2,800 kids who do not attend kindergarten in the state of Louisiana,” Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, the author of the bill author and the committee’s chairman. “Early childhood education is a necessity. A brain is developed most in the ages from birth to five years of age and this bill will give us an opportunity to take advantage of that.”
Senate Bill 10 will require each city, parish and local school board to offer full-day kindergarten instruction to any child who turns five before September 30th of the calendar year in which the school year begins. Children younger than five may enter kindergarten if they are evaluated and identified as gifted by the Louisiana Department of Education.
Present law does not mandate kindergarten attendance, and a child in Louisiana is not required to start attending school until age seven.
During the hearing, multiple amendments were added to the bill, including one stating that the bill allows for home study programs or nonpublic schools not seeking state approval to qualify as a kindergarten program under the law.
Susan East Nelson, executive director of the Louisiana Partnership for Children and Families, spoke in support of the bill. In 2015, the Louisiana Partnership launched a platform for children with mandatory kindergarten being a major item on the agenda.
She stated that kindergarten gives children healthy meals and developmental screening beginning at a younger age.
Sen. Beth Mizell, R-Franklinton, the Senate’s president pro tempore, disagreed with the bill on the grounds that some children are not ready to attend kindergarten at the age of five.
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