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. 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.” 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. 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.

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.

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

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