Updated: Mar 23
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Louisiana is one of 31 states that does not require parents to send their young children to Kindergarten. It is a law State Senator Cleo Fields aims to change, requiring all children to start school at age five.
In Louisiana, parents do not have to send their child to school until they are 7-years-old, allowing them to bypass kindergarten altogether.
“Right now, in Louisiana we have kids entering first grade at seven years of age. That’s unconscionable,” Fields said. “Once they get behind, they just never catch up.”
By his estimates, there are roughly 3,000 children not attending kindergarten across the state.
“We have to put the emphasis on education early because that’s when the brain is being developed and we have to, we got to get our kids, we have to catch them up and the only way we can do that is by doing it early,” Fields said.
In opposition, the Louisiana Family Forum. Its president Gene Mills issued this statement to WAFB:
SB 10 by Sen. Cleo Fields mandates that public schools begin Kindergarten for all Louisiana children by age 5. The current required enrollment age is 7. Lowering the age of compulsory attendance will impact every child in Louisiana- not just those enrolled in public school.
The Louisiana’s Children’s Code recognizes that parents should make decisions about the “the educational, moral, ethical, and religious training of the child.” It is important to honor and safeguard the prerogative of parents in making education decisions for their children. Friendly conversations are on-going with the author and other stakeholders on honoring parental rights while also addressing the issue the author seeks to remedy. We recognize that some children may benefit by entering a more structured and safer environment which some schools provide.
Our policy is to respect parental choice in determining the maturity and capability of each child’s readiness and also to ensure that non-public and home education are respected in any bill which moves forward.
Fields said plans to amend his bill to allow parents to homeschool their child instead of sending them to physical school.
“I will amend the bill to make it clear that if you want to home school your kid at 5 years of age, you can do that,” Fields said. “At the end of the day it has to be compulsory learning from 5 until, you know. We can’t just wait until they're 6 and 7 years old to start the process.”
Currently all districts in Louisiana must offer kindergarten classes. Only 19 states require parents to send their children to kindergarten.
Click here to watch the interview.