Committee advances bill requiring kindergarten

Published: May 19, 2021

By: Emily Wood, LSU Manship School News Service

Committee advances bill requiring kindergarten
Sen. Cleo Fields with Sarah Vandergriff and Janet Pope advocating for his mandatory kindergarten bill.

BATON ROUGE, La. — Without taking any action itself, the House Education Committee on Tuesday forwarded a bill making kindergarten mandatory to the House Appropriations Committee to consider its possible $12 million price tag.

Lawmakers said the bill could cost the state that much if there were to be a 6% increase in kindergarten enrollment.

The bill, Senate Bill 10, would require children turning 5 by Sept. 30 of a calendar year to attend kindergarten. Present law does not mandate kindergarten attendance. A child in Louisiana is not required to start attending school until age 7.

“Ninety percent of the brain development happens between birth and age 5,” said bill author Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge.

Rep. Mark Wright, R – Covington, presided over the committee hearing because Speaker of the House Rep. Clay Schexnayder, R- Gonzales, asked House Committee Chairman Rep. Ray Garofalo, R – Chalmette, to step aside as chairman for the remainder of the legislative session.

The Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus asked the speaker to remove Rep. Garofalo in April after his proposed legislation to ban the teaching of critical race theory came out.

“It is the Speaker’s prerogative to choose who he wants to chair a committee,” Garofalo said in a statement on Tuesday. “I have no problem with his exercising his authority, but I will not sacrifice my principles in doing what I know is right. My legislation is about protecting our children.”

The kindergarten bill could keep advancing because the Legislature has lots of money to spend this year. Louisiana is receiving substantial federal COVID-19 relief funds, and the Revenue Estimating Conference projected Tuesday that the state will have over $300 million to spend next year than previously expected.

Any child younger than 5 may enter kindergarten if evaluated and identified as gifted by the Louisiana Department of Education.


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