Booher kindergarten bill signed

LANSING — Legislation sponsored by Sen. Darwin Booher and Rep. Ray Franz to ensure children are ready for school before they start kindergarten was signed by the governor on Tuesday.

“With this action we are giving every Michigan student the best chance for academic success by helping ensure that all incoming students are prepared to learn,” said Booher, R-Evart. “This reform puts the best interests of our students first. Michigan now joins the vast majority of states that are already seeing the benefits of starting children at an older age: better academic performance, less repetition of early grades and real savings for schools.”

Public Acts 198 and 199 of 2012 will move up the date by which a child needs to be age five in order to enter kindergarten. That date will move from Dec. 1 to Nov. 1 for the 2013-14 school year, and will move up one month each year until reaching Sept. 1 for the 2015-16 school year.

“Our primary goal with this reform is to help provide Michigan students the best opportunity for achieving success in school and later in life,” said Franz, R-Onekama. “Studies have shown that school preparedness and maturity levels make a difference, and a survey of kindergarten teachers in Michigan indicated that only 65 percent of our children were ready to learn a kindergarten curriculum. This change will help improve academic outcomes by putting Michigan in line with most states that already have Sept. 1 kindergarten age start dates.”

Former kindergarten teacher Joan Antle of Leelanau County also attended the bill signing. Antle has 30 years of teaching experience and told lawmakers during the approval process about the need to ensure children are ready for school given today’s demanding curriculum.

Under the reforms, parents of a child who would be five by Dec. 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.