LAFAYETTE, La. — (KLFY) Another year of school could soon become mandatory for Louisiana students. Kindergarten is currently a required offering by all schools, but no child has to attend. The Louisiana State Senate is looking to change that this year.
Current state law dictates a student must enter first grade if they are age six before the end of September. If Senate Bill 10 is signed into law, starting with the 2022-2023 school year, the age would move back to five and the first required class would be kindergarten.
“We often talk about K-12, but it’s really 1st-12,” stated State Senator District 14 Cleo Fields. He wrote Senate Bill 10 and explained it is the first step in shifting the focus of Louisiana education to younger students.
Fields argues every dollar spent in early childhood education comes back seven times or more. “There’s no question about it. If 90% of the brain is developed between birth and five, we’ve got to get kids in formal education as soon as possible so they can maximize their potential in life.”
Most parents do use kindergarten according to Senator Fields, but he says that is because it is made easy for parents, and early opportunities need to be made just as easy.
Fields said, “I wish I could wave this wand to where every kid gets pre-K education, but I think what we’re going to have to do is first make K mandatory which is what we’re seeking to do this session, and secondly, we’ve got to start getting to these kids by having more daycare opportunities.”
Fields argues the state must approve educationally-based daycares for credits on your tax return, so that Louisiana can get to a point where it can provides quality daycare and no child fall behind.
“That’s the long ball, but that’s where we ultimately have to get to be competitive in this country,” Fields concluded.
We reached to local school districts for their thoughts on the bill. Superintendent for Jeff Davis Schools Kirk Credeur responded saying, “I believe that the legislative move to make kindergarten mandatory is the manifestation of a universal truth that early childhood education is the cornerstone to building an informed and relevant citizenry.
Senator Fields plans to move the bill within the first couple weeks of the legislative session next month. If it passes, it will go to the House. If it passes there, then the governor’s desk.