Already passed in the Assembly, a new bill proposing to make 5-year-old kindergarten a requirement before moving onto first grade heads to the Senate floor today.
Although the specific requirements to complete kindergarten are not set in stone, it will include attending class regularly. According to Julie Laundrie, spokesperson for Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, attendance guidelines for kindergarten will be similar to those of other Wisconsin public schools.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, currently almost all children are enrolled in a private or public kindergarten before they attend first grade.
However, the bill, authored by Sen. Spencer Coggs, D-Milwaukee, aims to encourage parents to regularly take their children to kindergarten, which supporter Sen. Robert Jauch, D-Poplar, says is an important educational foundation.
“Kindergarten is the foundation for everything a child learns,” Jauch said. “It assures good social interaction and helps cement learning tools children will rely upon as they go through school.”
However, not all senators agree with the bill’s purpose. Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, said school districts are seeing many parents enroll their kids in kindergarten, but the kids do not show up at an acceptable rate, something he said parents should not be punished for.
Furthermore, Grothman said he opposes the bill because he believes parents should have a choice in their child’s education and this bill restricts that choice.
“Some parents like to take care of their own children. There is no reason why they shouldn’t be able to do that,” Grothman said.
Still, many believe attending kindergarten is important for a child’s future success. Christina Brey, spokesperson for the Wisconsin Education Association Council, an organization made up of teachers and education support professionals, said WEAC strongly supports the bill because it tells parents who enroll their kids in kindergarten they need to attend class at a constant rate, something that will ultimately be better for students.
“A kid’s attendance, even at an early age of schooling, sets the pattern for future years,” Brey said. “A child with a better educational experience and better attendance will be more successful.”
Jauch agrees and said in a changing education system that demands more of students, completion of kindergarten should be required.
“It’s a common sense necessity to make certain children are well-prepared and are able to keep up with classmates,” he said.
This is reinforced by a study from the U.S. Department of Education showing a 10-point increase in reading scores and an eight-point increase in math scores between kindergarten students in the fall and later in the spring.
Many supporters, including Brey, are expecting the bill to pass.
“We’re very hopeful our legislators will see the importance of the bill,” Brey said.