Kindergarten Enrollment May Be Delayed For Many Children

By Sheria Reid

If North Carolina state legislators have their way, more than 15,000 children who turn five between September 1 and October 16 in 2009 will not be eligible to enroll in the state kindergarten program. House Bill 150 (H150) and an identical Senate Bill 751 (S751), propose to change the cut off date for initial school enrollment in kindergarten from October 16 to August 31, effective fiscal year 2009-2010.

Under the current law, as long as a child will be five by October 16, that child may enter kindergarten in August of the school year in which the child turned five.  A child whose fifth birthday is as late as October 16 may enroll in a state funded program when school begins in August prior to the child reaching age five in October. The proposed bills, both entitled Every Child Ready to Learn, would not allow a child to enroll in August of that school year if he or she will not be five by August 31.  If this legislation passes, a child who turns five after August 31,2009 will have to wait until the school year beginning in August 2010 to enroll in a state funded kindergarten program. The fiscal note for H150 estimates that the change would result in 15,360 fewer children statewide beginning kindergarten in August 2009.

Based on the title of H150 and S751, AN ACT for modifying the school admission requirements to ensure that every child is ready to enter kindergarten and thereby reduce student dropout rates in later grades, both bills are being presented as having the potential to address some of the troubles that currently beset public education in North Carolina–an unacceptable dropout rate and school readiness.

However, there is insufficient evidence to conclusively support that delaying initial enrollment in school will decrease the dropout rate in the future. However, there is research that suggests that low income children are disadvantaged by lack of a quality pre-school experience and that the disadvantage magnifies as they age, leading to higher dropout rates. A student that is older than his or her peers in that grade level is more likely to become a dropout statistic.  The student who is six when beginning K or turns six within the first two months of beginning K, will reach the current legal dropout age of 16 nearly a full year before his or her peers.

The other stated purpose of these bills is to make certain children are ready to learn when they begin school.  Unfortunately, there is no solid scientifically based research that conclusively supports the notion that a six year old is automatically more ready to learn than the same child was one year earlier without some intervening experiences designed to prepare the child to be ready to learn.  In other words, just hanging around the house another year does not correlate with improved academic readiness for children who are already at-risk of academic failure.

A 2006 study on the impact of delaying initial entry into school, concludes that positive gains in achievement shown in students who are older when they begin school are more likely connected to their experiences prior to beginning school than any effect from delaying kindergarten for a year. In other words, middle class and higher children who have educational experiences prior to entering kindergarten benefit from the delay but no such benefit is seen for lower income children.

This change will most seriously impact children from lower income and working class families who are unable to afford private day care or pre-school, depriving them of any significant formal educational experience for as much as an additional school year.  Under current law, the mandatory school age is seven; parents already have the option to choose not to send their child to kindergarten when he/she turns five.  Some parents choose not to do so based on their beliefs as to the physical and emotional maturity of their child. The proposed change will only force parents who do not have options for providing a solid pre-school experience for their children to delay access to education for their children. 

In addition, it is essential to weigh the economic costs to families of the proposed change on low-income and working class parents.  They will have an extra year of child care expenses while waiting for their child to reach school age.

According to the fiscal note attached to H150, the proposed bills will have an economic benefit to state and local government. Assuming all factors remain constant regarding average daily membership, the fiscal note anticipates reduced state General Fund expenditures and reduced county government expenditures in public school spending for a period of twelve years beginning with implementation of the bill in 2009-10 fiscal year.

17 Comments

  1. diana

    May 30, 2007 at 7:41 am

    I am glad my daughters are already in school! Let the parents decide! I have one daughter with an Oct 2 and one with a Sept 22 birthday. The Oct daughter is a young freshman taking honors classes and playing sports. The other is a in 6th AIG (academically gifted) classes and recently scored in the 97th percentile on a math test. From the day they were born I knew I would send them to kindergarten on time and if they struggled, I would let them repeat it. Every child is different! I do not need someone in Raleigh to decide what is best for my children. But apparently, this is all about money because it will reduce the number of kindergarteners for one year!

  2. carolyn

    June 1, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    Why not let your child stay home an extra year if he or she is close to the cut-off? It’s not about money to me. Having a child repeat a grade is very rough on him or her. They always answer, “I am in 5th grade but I should be in 6th”. I know I won’t have any regrets holding them back a year, but I may if I send them early and they struggle. I see alot of younger chilydren struggle socially. Keep your kids home and have some fun that extra year, they grow up so fast!

  3. Kelly

    June 20, 2007 at 11:49 pm

    I think forcing this decision on parents is horrible. As stated, a parent already has the option of waiting an additional year if they feel their child is not ready. Also, as a person who herself was an Oct. 21st birthday in a state whose cut off was Nov. and had no preschool experience I can say that yes, I struggled at first, I needed extra help to make it through kindergarten and it took me years to settle down and truly find my focus. However, going forward through life having gotten the lesson early that learning is work and that you can try your best and still not ace things enabled me to make it through medical school (I had classmates that dropped out not because they were failing but because they were used to A’s being easy and the toll working hard and getting only B’s and C’s was taking on their self image wasn’t worth it!). Success will not be measured by how easy school is early on (sooner or later they Will be challenged!) but by the support and encouragement they receive from family and teachers and by their own passion/self motivation.

  4. Eric

    June 21, 2007 at 11:30 pm

    This change is ridiculous. I have one child already in school who was born on September 22 and consistently ranks in the 99th percentile. I have another child that will be turning 5 on October 11, 2009. She is already exhibiting intelligence and maturity beyond her age. It should be up to a child’s parents and not lawmakers to decide if their child is ready for kindergarten. Are the lawmakers going to entertain my child when she enters kindergarten at 6 years of age and sits in class listening to coursework that she already knows?

  5. Sharon A.

    June 22, 2007 at 11:53 am

    This proposal is horrible. The kindergarten program should be revamped to meet the needs of the students. Not the other way around. This all seems financially motivated and not what is in the best interest of the children. My daughter is 4 and in New York eligible to begin kindergarten in the fall. Because I am a working parent she has been in an educational environment(not a baby sitter) since she was 1 year old. She loves to learn. Her favorite game is spelling test! She does not even play with toys. A pencil and some paper is all she needs. To make her wait until she is 6 would result in her becoming a behavior problem because she is not being stimulated and then the school system would want to place her in special education classes!

  6. Dawn

    June 30, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    I agree with the proposal. I have a son who I am holding out an extra year because even though he is very bright and could have easily done the classwork, he was immature last year and the difference a year makes is incredible. I think that children should be five when they begin school, not four. I have had numerous educators say, especially with boys, that they can almost always tell who are the younger ones because of they struggle with maturity issues. These educators ranged from elementary to high school.

    I have to wonder if the people who are protesting are just worried about paying for childcare for another year instead of what is best for their child.

  7. Dawn

    June 30, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    I agree with the proposal. I have a son who I am holding out an extra year because even though he is very bright and could have easily done the classwork, he was immature last year and the difference a year makes is incredible. I think that children should be five when they begin school, not four. I have had numerous educators say, especially with boys, that they can almost always tell who are the younger ones because they struggle with maturity issues. These educators ranged from elementary to high school.

    I have to wonder if the people who are protesting are just worried about paying for childcare for another year instead of what is best for their child.

  8. Sam

    October 2, 2007 at 8:54 pm

    As a preschool teacher, I agree with this cut off date. Kindergarten isn’t like it was 10 years ago. It is more demanding and we are sending our 4 year olds off when they are still babies. So what if the state saves money. If the only reason parents are complaining is due to money then shame on you. Parents want the teachers to take over their jobs of raising their children. Parents, you are responsible for your own children. Take that extra year to make play dates, put them in a preschool program, teach them at home. It’s not that hard. I teach a pre-kindergarten class and I have children that come to me that can’t even hold crayons, have no clue what the difference is between numbers and letters. I find that very sad and disturbing as a teacher and a mom. My nephew entered kindergarten 4 days befoe the Oct. deadline and he struggled every year, he failed his grade and had to take extra classes just so he could graduate with his original classmates. He just wasn’t ready but his mom wanted to save money.
    Yes, some may be ready, but sitting out and learning at home isn’t a bad option. For those not ready, yes their situation is the same, and they still won’t be ready, but at least they will have another year to mature emotionally. Sending them too early when they aren’t ready just sets them up for failure. Being one year older isn’t setting them up for failure. They will be with lots of other children in the same boat. It’s parents that don’t take an active role in their children’s education that sets children up for failure.

  9. Xrlq

    February 5, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    As a parent of a 3-year old who will almost certainly be factually but not legally ready for kindergarten in 2009, I’ll freely admit to being too biased to render a fair judgment on the merits of the overall policy. I can say, however, that fiscal savings arguments are phony. Whatever the pedagogic merits of the new law may be, the most likely fiscal result is negligible savings between now and 2022, followed by significant negative savings from then on.

    First, all policies designed to generate savings by squeezing a balloon should be inherently suspect. No one is proposing denying a 12th year of education to anyone, so the notion that we are “saving” anything in the long run by sending 12.5% of the population to school one year later is ludicrous. All we’re doing is shifting the costs from one year to the next. There may be good reasons for doing this, but fiscal savings is not among them.

    Second, the fiscal note assumes that if the change in the eligibility date reduces the size of the 2009 entering kindergarten class by 15,360, it will continue to reduce the size of the group by the same number all the way through year 12. Setting aside the inevitable fact that some kids will die, and many more will move to other states, the only way the difference can remain at 15,360 from K-12 is if the whole bit about reducing dropout rates was a lie. To the extent the new policy really does reduce dropout rates, that means the 15,360 figure will get progressively smaller over the years, with each subsequent class being a bit larger than it otherwise would be (basically everyone who’s there now, plus those who were dissuaded from dropping out). Again, that may be a good thing from a pedagogical standpoint, but a money-saver it ain’t.

    Third, even if are to assume that the bill really will yield a one-time 12.5% reduction in each class from kindergarten in 2009-10 through 12th grade in 2021-22, that’s not going to translate into 12.5% savings for any school’s budget. If a school district knew it could anticipate 12.5% fewer kindergarteners from 2009 into the foreseeable future, it could lay off 12.5% of its kindergarten teachers, close 12.5% of its schools, or whatever. But if it knows it’s only going to get the artificially small class for one year, it can’t lay off 12.5% of the work force and expect them to be available for re-hire a year later. The only way it can come close to realizing a 12.5% savings is to shuffle teachers around from one grade to the next, with the extra kindergarten teachers teaching grades 1-3 in 2009-10, extra first grade teachers teaching kindergarten and grades 2-3 in 2010-11, and so on. More likely, we’d just keep the schools and staff we have now, with one group having unusually small class size for a year, with big “savings” in ADA funny-money, but no measurable savings in actual dollars to the taxpayer or the state.

    Fourth, the only clear and indisuptable effect of this law is to delay education (and therefore, gainful employment) to 12.5% of the population for one year. That the same kids will start paying taxes one year later, and probably make less every year after that due to one less year of job experience. This will impose a real cost to the state, and unlike this phony “savings,” it won’t just apply to the one class beginning in 2009, but to every class that follows.

  10. Gail

    February 18, 2008 at 8:11 am

    I agree with the date change. Initally for the first class there will be quite an impact as parents will have to adjust to paying for childcare for an additional year, but parents of children born late in the year will soon realize this and will naturally know their child cannot attend school until a certain age. The age is only changing by 6 weeks. A child is too young to go to school at 4 years old. As it is now,you can have one child in a class born say October 12 and another born in November of the previous year. These kids are classmates even though they are almost a year apart in age. A year is a huge gap in young children. This adjustment in age is going to develope classrooms of students more similar in social and academic skills, which will help teachers provide better education. There is also a stipulation in the new law that a principal can decide to admit a “gifted” child if they are 4 by April 16. I have two children with July birthdays and think it would have been great to have August as a cut off date.I have seen many of their friends with late birthdays hate being the last to do everything like grow and drive. Kids that clearly did not need to go to school were sent just because they were old enough. Parents are not always the best judge of when a child is”ready”. Being ready for school is more than being able to count and recite the abc’s. I applaud my state for taking this important step for our children.

  11. Khari's Mom

    June 19, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    If you believe that holding your child out for another year, that’s on you. For those of us who know our child is ready to go to kindergarten, this is a mess.

    The statistics alone that indicate older children in the class performing worse and/or opting to drop out in higher rates is enough to maintain my belief that this is a bad idea. My daughter will be 5 in mid-Sept. and will have to wait a full year to be the oldest kid in class? Then, the assessments used to determine early-admit are unavailable for parents to peruse beforehand and you are given no info on what your child was even assessed on… (I live in PG County, MD).

    This is not a good thing on any level.

  12. aj

    August 11, 2008 at 12:00 am

    I do not even agree with this at all!!!! My daughter will turn 5 Sept.7 2009. Thats 1 wk. after the cut off date! This doesnt make sense. She is ready for kindergarten this year!!! She is very smart. I believe there should be exceptions to this rule !!! They should let the parents decide… My daughter wants to go to school and will have to wait now a whole year after her other cousins her age are in school. It isnt fair!!! Yes, some 4 yr. olds arent ready, but some are!!!!!!

  13. Jen

    August 14, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    I also do not agree with the new change. I think it should be up to the parents and perhaps some testing. If a child is ready, they’re ready – no matter their age. My son will turn 5 on Sept. 15, 2009. If he were to start this year, there would be no issue but because of the change, I have to look into other alternatives for meeting his needs. It’s unfortunate that their seems to be a lot of special options for those who struggle, but for those who are advanced, there are very few options other than leaving them behind to be bored.

    My opinion is not based on finances or anything other than my son. My husband and I both feel it is in his best interest to give him an early start. I am a stay-at-home mom so it’s not a matter of being able to afford daycare for him or whatever – he is ready and I’m positive that a year from now, when we want to start him that he will be more than ready. It’s just sad that there aren’t better alternatives to meet the needs of those who are ahead of the rest instead of pushing them to be with the rest just because their birthday may be a few weeks late.

  14. Ts'ele Lehasa

    September 9, 2008 at 10:27 am

    I am a first year student at the University of the Free State doing education and educational psychology. Considering the cooperative world on which most parents are living such as going to work every morning and coming back home late I would support them to take their children to schools as early as they could. One other thing is the safety of the kindergarten; parents are sure their kids are busy with things that will help them achieve or acquire as time goes by which will probably enhance their abilities unlike leaving them at homes with just helpers.

  15. Renita

    September 10, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    I feel that the cut off date should be Sept 1st – with 2nd – 7th with exception at the Principal descretion -this would be allowing for after the official holiday to begin classes. The Holdiay being usually the first Monday in September would not be over the 7th day at any given time. It use to be that school did not start until after Labor Day due to families taking their last vacation to end summer and summer employment for students that are eligible for summer jobs. The next official holiday is in October- to many days past for the child to enroll..no exceptions. Please consider suggestion and notify Newspapers. Hopefully, this will help alot of parents concerns of delaying their kindegarten. Humbly submitted.

  16. Yolanda

    January 23, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    I too, do NOT agree with this new law at all!!! My daughter will turn 5 years old just 2 days after the cut off and I am told the only way to get her into Kindergarten for the 2009-2010 school year is for her to pass an assessment test that shows that she has strong reading and writing skills. Now, take another child whose birthday is on August 31, that child can start Kindergarten and does not have to read or write at all! So, here you have two kids with birthdays just 2 days apart and one has to know how to read and write and the other doesn’t just because he/she meets the deadline. That just doesn’t make sense to me at all!

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