Bill to help parents of kindergartners approved

LANSING — Legislation sponsored by Sen. Darwin Booher to ensure children are ready for school before they start kindergarten was approved Thursday by the Michigan Senate.

“In an increasingly digital, global economy, it is more important than ever that our children receive a quality education,” said Booher, R-Evart. “The evidence is clear that students who struggle early in school often continue to struggle. My bills would help improve academic success by better ensuring that children are prepared to learn before they enter kindergarten.”

Senate Bills 315 and 316 would move up the date by which a child needs to be age 5 in order to enter kindergarten. That date would move from Dec. 1 to Nov. 1 for the 2013-14 school year, and would move up one month each year until reaching Sept. 1 for the 2015-16 school year.

“Michigan is one of only three states with such a late kindergarten eligibility date, and California is moving their date to September 1 by 2014,” Booher said. “Research has shown that delaying kindergarten by as little as three months leads to significantly improved test scores in math and reading. Michigan should join the vast majority of states that have seen the academic benefits of starting kids at an older age.”

Former kindergarten teacher Joan Antle of Leelanau County told the Senate Education Committee in March about the need to ensure children are ready for school. Antle has 30 years of experience as an educator and told the panel that given the demanding curriculum students must meet, it is time that Michigan children be a least five when they begin their 13-year formal school education.

Tina Everard, a teacher from Southwest Elementary in Howell, told the Senate panel that two-thirds of the children retained in kindergarten in her class started last year at age 4.

“The main reason for this change is to help our children succeed in school,” Booher said. “Secondary benefits of ensuring that children are ready for school are a reduction in the number of kindergarten students who need to repeat the grade, which will save Michigan taxpayers millions of dollars each year.”

Under the measures, parents of a child who would be five by December 1 could request that the school district enroll their child even though he or she would not meet the new deadline. The final decision about enrolling the child in these cases would be made by the parent.