Decatur Superintendent speaks out on Kindergarten eligibility bill

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt February 5, 2015
Students and parents check out the library at Westchester Elementary on July 31. File Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

Students and parents check out the library at Westchester Elementary on July 31. File Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

City Schools of Decatur Superintendent Phyllis Edwards said she isn’t sure why the state Legislature is considering a change that would push back the eligibility date for Kindergarten enrollment.

But she’s pretty sure it would be a headache for local school systems.

Edwards gave Decaturish a draft copy of a letter she’s planning to send to legislators and the Georgia Department of Education about House Bill 100. The bill has the backing of State School Superintendent Richard Woods.

The bill would change the eligibility date for Kindergarten from Sept. 1 to Aug. 1. Woods said via press release, ““I wholeheartedly support House Bill 100. Since most schools now start before Sept. 1, we have many students starting Kindergarten far too young. Some younger students, especially four-year-olds, are not developmentally ready for Kindergarten. 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.”

Edwards said the bill would unfairly punish students who are ready for Kindergarten but have the misfortune of having a fifth birthday that falls after Aug. 1. She said, “If you’re going to solve a problem for kids then why create a problem for kids?”

According to her draft letter, Edwards said that these students would not be able to repeat Pre-K classes. She said at least 20 of the CSD’s Pre-K students would not be able to enroll in Kindergarten if the bill was passed and signed by the governor this year.

Here is the draft copy of her letter about HB 100.

Dr. Edwards Letter

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  • MAJ D

    In true legislative form there appears to be no analysis of how timing might have unintended consequences. For instance, this bill if passed takes effect this coming school year. Many pre-K and private Kindergarten programs have already started registration and are putting new students on wait lists, leaving very limited choices for children who are now no longer be eligible for Kindergarten.

    I am shocked that the state school superintendent does not realize that school decisions are made many months in advance and such a bill would cause chaos if implemented in the same year. At least give parents some time to make arrangements before it takes effect.

    • dgtlrift

      My daughter is already in pre-k with her birthday in mid-August and would be effected by this. I don’t think it’s very practice to have an arbitrary cutoff – I don’t kids younger than my daughter that are more mature and I know kids older than my daughter that are less mature. To me it makes more sense to do a case-by-case basis rather than having an arbitrary date.

  • Jeff S

    Thankful for Dr. Edwards in bringing this to the attention of the legislature. Hopefully common sense prevails here. Imagine if your child was in 8th grade this year, passed with flying colors, but was told that they couldn’t go to 9th grade the following year because they are now 1 month short of a brand new age requirement. Oh and there is no longer room to repeat 8th grade anymore (which would be ridiculous anyway) because the class is already full. So go figure something out (maybe go pay for private school?) and we will see you again in a year.

    It’s the same concept here for Pre-K kids rising to Kindergarten. The overall debate on eligibility dates is a valid one. However it must be handled with care and common sense. Decisions have already been made by parents of kids with August birthdays on when to start Pre-K schooling. Once everything is in motion you simply cannot change on a dime. What is most important here is that a bill sponsor publicly recognizes this immediately and adjust accordingly so that all of the impacted parents can have peace from the undue levels of stress that this is causing them.

  • SGSummers

    Amen! I am a teacher, and my daughter will fall into the August birthday category. She will be more than ready to start Kindergarten when it is time, and this will be a huge disservice to her. If your child is not ready, then hold them back. You can do that now, so why punish the kids that are ready? Most kids who aren’t ready at 4 will not be ready at 5 either because they will sit at home another year without instruction. The better solution is a universal preschool program for all children because it will prepare children for Kindergarten.

    • Betsy

      Most children that are redshirted because of immaturity (or a desire on the part of the parents to have developmentally appropriate, play based learning for one more year) are NOT sitting at home for a year without instruction.

      I know of absolutely no parent that has a 4 year old at home that does nothing for them. They are all either actively homeschooled by the parent, in a private pre-k/young 5 program, or some other hybrid (co-ops, university model schools, what-have-you). This is a not a group that is going to fall through the cracks and be sitting at home drinking red pop and watching television all day.

  • CLJ

    Aside from the children who are displaced by this proposed legislation, I simply don’t think it will work as intended to fix the problem that the Legislator’s hope it will. Even if the twenty COD children who are displaced by the bill are ‘grandfathered’ into the current system somehow, that’s only twenty children. I assume the bill hopes to prevent difficulties that arise when there is such a wide range of ages that Kindergarten teachers must cater to — with some classrooms having four year olds all the way through six year olds who have been red-shirted by their families for various reasons. The two month start date bump-up will not fix the issue created by red-shirting children. (I have no opinion on red-shirting either way, that’s an individual choice to be made by parents). All the bill does, as it is currently drafted, is create problems for school districts and families of children who are born in the later summer months. It does not effectively address the problem. Instead, the legislature needs to take a hard look at the current mandatory school start age (currently it’s 6 years old, I believe) that allows red-shirting to occur.

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