A bill in the Georgia House could slightly change the age demographic of kindergartners enrolling in public schools.
House Bill 100 would stop 4-year-olds from enrolling in kindergarten. Under state law, a child must be 5 by Sept. 1 in any given year to enroll, but both Rome and Floyd County systems, like many other across the state, start classes the first week in August.
That means some children who are only 4 can now attend school for a month before they turn 5.
HB 100 would move the cutoff date for enrollment eligibility from Sept. 1 to Aug. 1 for the 2015-2016 school year.
The bill also proposes moving the cutoff date to June 30 for the 2016-2017 school year and beyond.
House Bill 100 had its first reading before the legislature Wednesday.
Georgia Schools Superintendent Richard Woods said he supports the HB 100 proposal.
“Some younger students, especially 4-year-olds, are not developmentally ready for kindergarten,” Woods said in a statement issued by his office. “Oftentimes their presence in a classroom requires teachers to provide pre-kindergarten services to the disadvantage of the older students who are ready to learn at the kindergarten level and achieve the high academic standards we have in Georgia.”
State Board of Education Chair Helen Rice said “the lack of kindergarten readiness of late 4-year-olds and early five-year-olds is exacerbated by the fact that many of these children have had no prior school experience. The more time they have to mature before starting kindergarten the better.”
Local lawmakers are hoping to hear more about the potential changes before deciding if they will support the measure.
“I did overhear the state superintendent’s concerns, and understand that this bill has to do mainly with the fact that many of the kindergartners who start early have not matured as a child,” said State Rep. Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee. “(Woods) explained that it holds a lot of the pack back because the teacher has to deal with other things besides instruction.”
State Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, who sits on the Senate’s Education Committee, said he understands why the bill was drafted.
“The author of this provision, Representative Dickson, spoke with a lot of teachers who really feel like the students would benefit by having more maturity at that age,” Hufstetler said. “Data shows that they (4-year-olds) struggle and are not successful. They are trying to keep students from failing.”
Georgia operates pre-K classes for 3- and 4-year-olds.
Georgia's State School Superintendent
Richard Woods has over 25 years of pre-k through 12th grade experience in public education. > Read Full Bio