A proposed bill to raise the age of children entering kindergarten has been rejected by state legislators. The bill received the backing of the State Board of Education in December but failed last week to gain the support of the legislature's Education Committee.
Currently, children can begin kindergarten in September as long as they turn 5 by Dec. 31. The proposed bill would have pushed back the cutoff date to Oct. 1, making the 10,000 children born in October, November and December wait another year before starting public schools.
Lawmakers were concerned that these families would have pay for another year of preschool. "This is not the right time to put undue financial burden on families to pay for another year of preschool," says Sen. Toni Boucher, R-26th District, a member of the Education Committee who represents Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport and Wilton.
In addition, the state budget doesn't allow for the expansion of preschool programs for low-income children. State officials have estimated it would cost about $37 million a year to provide preschool for about 4,400 low-income students who would have been affected by the change in enrollment age.
But timing aside, Boucher is in favor of the change because Connecticut has the latest kindergarten cutoff date in the nation. "We are out of synch with the rest of the country. ... We should be consistent with everyone else."
Dana Gorman, a preschool teacher at the Community Cooperative Nursery School in Rowayton, says the late date causes problems for some parents. "I have experienced the angst of parents who travel between states for jobs," says Gorman. "Parents want to keep their child in line with the age for one state, should they have to move back, causing them to withhold their child from kindergarten in Connecticut."
Some parents, especially in wealthier districts, hold back their children for developmental or physical reasons — a practice commonly known as redshirting. "It's a vicious cycle. Children are held back, causing older children to be in kindergarten, which in turn leads to a more academic kindergarten, coming full circle to parents holding their children back," says Gorman. "Of course, the parents who cannot afford that additional year of preschool have to send their children to a class that has lost much of its developmental appropriateness for 4-year-olds as it is now teaching 6-year-olds."
The legislative committee agreed to part of the bill that would help reduce the age range in kindergarten. Parents would be required to enroll children if they turn 6 during the school year, keeping 7-year-olds out of kindergarten classrooms. The revised bill does allow for waivers in special circumstances.
Are you disappointed or relieved that the bill was killed in committee? Do you have children born late in the year? Did you hold them back?