The Iowa House has voted to let kids under the age of five enter kindergarten. The policy would let schools admit kids who turn five after September 15th to kindergarten if they demonstrate “sufficient ability” on tests, undoing present policy which forbids nearly-five-year-old kids born before September 15th from starting kindergarten.
Fifty-eight-year-old Representative Dwayne Alons, a Republican from Hull, says he benefitted from enrolling in kindergarten before he reached the age of five. But Alons says one of his grandsons who was born on September 16th was not allowed even to enter a transitional kindergarten program. “I believe we’re on the right track allowing parents to decide who’s capable of starting (kindergarten),” Alons says.
Representative Doug Struyk, a Republican from Council Bluffs, was born on August 1, 1970 and he started school when he was “just barely” five. Struyk says an “arbitrary” state standard should not be the be-all end-all, and local school officials should decide whether kids can enter kindergarten on a case-by-case basis.
Representative Jeri Huser, a Democrat from Altoona, is pushing for the kindergarten admission change because one of her constituent’s has a boy named Dalton who could not enter kindergarten this past fall. “Dalton is currently going through many of the same things that (other) five year olds are, but because of his date of birth — two hours after our deadline — he is not attending kindergarten with many kids that he went to preschool with,” Huser says.
But Representative Don Shoultz, a Democrat from Waterloo, predicts that if the policy becomes law, lots of parents will badger their local school district officials to let their kids in. “I guess, overall, I have to come down to the point and say ‘Yes, you need to have a rigid standard on this one,'” Shoultz says. “It does take out the personalities. It takes out social position in the arbitrary decision (about which kids get to enter kindergarten early).”
Shoultz says while he “feels badly” for parents who have a young child they believe is ready to enter kindergarten, he still favors the “rather…rigid standard on when a child enters school.” Representative Mary Mascher, a Democrat from Iowa City, says a four-year-old is developmentally quite different from a five-year-old.
“I believe this is not in the best interests of four-year-olds in this state,” Mascher says. “The difference between a four-year-old preschool and kindergarten is very dramatic.”
The bill that would change kingergarten entrance rules passed the House on a 54 to 43 vote and must clear a committee in the Iowa Senate this week or the proposal is dead for the year.