House votes to require older kindergarten students

House votes to require older kindergarten students (Image 1)

The House on Wednesday approved a Republican-backed bill requiring children to be older before they can enroll in kindergarten.

The bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Glen Casada of Franklin was approved on a 68-30 vote.

Currently children must be five years old by September 30.

The measure would move that cut-off to August 31 in the school year beginning in 2013, and to August 15 the year after that.

Democrats argue the measure aims to lay off teachers.

Casada told Nashville's News 2 he sponsored the bill after teachers came to him and voiced their concerns.

“Kindergarten teachers in my district came to me and the Williamson County delegation and said we think there are too many children in kindergarten that aren't ready,” he explained.

Cindy Ligon is the director of McKendree United Methodist Church Day Care Center.

She told Nashville's News 2 when a child enters kindergarten they are expected to know basic things that some do not.

“Knowing how to wait for your turn, knowing how to put your own jacket on and knowing how to wipe your own bottom, those are the type of skills that kindergarten teachers are going to expect children to have acquired,” she explained.

Ligon said it may not necessarily be the children who are not ready for school, but instead the curriculum that is being taught.

“The curriculums for many kindergarten programs are almost reaching an inappropriate level in terms of their developmental appropriateness,” Ligon said.

Ligon added that the changes could help children who are not socially ready for school, especially those who have never been in a group setting or experience pre-kindergarten.

Casada also added he disputes a fiscal analysis that the change would affect 4,200 children at an annual cost savings to the state of more than $21 million.  Four-year-olds could qualify if they pass a maturity test.

The companion bill is awaiting a Senate vote.

*The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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