Mandatory kindergarten in Louisiana passes in House

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 would make kindergarten mandatory for Louisiana 5-year-olds passed in the House of Representatives by a 59-31 vote. 

Rep. Jason Hughes (D-New Orleans), who brought Senate Bill 10 to the House for author Sen. Cleo Fields (D-Baton Rouge) Thursday, said the bill is “good for our children and good for our state.”

“We already mandate that children have to attend first grade. They have no choice,” Hughes said. “And unfortunately, many of our children are entering first grade not prepared.”

About 160,000 students in grades K-5 in Louisiana cannot read, Hughes said. “When you take into account 6th through 12th grade (students)… the results are even more disappointing.”

Seventeen states and Washington, D.C., require kindergarten for their students, including Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Georgia. If passed, any Louisiana child “who turns five years of age on or before March 31 of the calendar year in which the school year begins” must enter kindergarten.

Rep. Beryl Amedee (R-Houma) also introduced an amendment that eliminated the age requirement for kindergarteners and Rep. Danny McCormick (R-Oil City) introduced an amendment “that does away with the penalties.” McCormick said he “doesn’t think parents ought to be imprisoned or have their children taken away from them or go to counseling if they don’t abide by this.”

Hughes said McCormick’s amendment is “a solution in search of a problem” and “we are not currently putting parents or children in prison.”

Both amendments failed to pass.