Mandatory kindergarten for 5-year-olds bill passes Louisiana Senate committee

In Louisiana, 54.5% of students attending public school are of color; yet there are only 26.1% teachers of color working in those schools, a gap of 28.4%. (Getty Images)

A bill that requires Louisiana’s 5-year-olds to attend kindergarten was approved by the Louisiana Senate Education Committee in a 5-1 vote Wednesday morning.

“We have about 2,800 kids who do not attend kindergarten in the state of Louisiana,” Sen. Cleo Fields (D-Baton Rouge), sponsor of the bill and chair of the committee, said. “Early childhood education is a necessity in that the brain is developed the most between (0-5 years).”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 19 states and the District of Columbia require kindergarten attendance. According to the bill’s fiscal note, increased Kindergarten enrollment ranging from 1 to 6 percent would increase state expenditures by $2 to $12 million. Because the bill increases student enrollment and costs the state money, it is also expected to be referred to the Senate Finance Committee for review.

The only objection to Fields’ bill came from Sen. Beth Mizell (R-Franklinton)  who said parents should get to choose whether they want to send their kids to kindergarten. Mizell said she is concerned that if some students are sent to structured educational settings too soon, it could stunt their growth instead of nourishing it.

Sen. Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe) disagreed. She said if students aren’t mature enough for kindergarten, then starting them in school earlier will only help them in the long run.

If a child is behind in their maturity level, that child “not only needs some type of formal training, they need extra tutoring and extra care to get them to the point of being at the same pace as other children their age,” Jackson said.

If passed, the proposed law would apply to “any child who turns five years of age on or before Sept. 30th” starting the 2022-2023 school year.