Legislation considered by a Senate panel today would lower the age when kids would be required to attend school from six to five years old. Senator Bill Heckroth, a Democrat from Waverly sponsored the bill.
"This is a bill that came to me as a request from a teacher in my district questioning why we would have a lot of focus going into pre-school as we have the last few years and not have kindergarten as mandatory," Heckroth says.
Emily Piper is a lobbyist for the Iowa Association of School Boards which opposes the change. "We prefer to focus on the other end in terms of keeping children in school longer…we think that parents are in the best position at that age to make a decision about whether or not they (kids) are ready to be in school," Piper says.
Konni Cawiezell with the Department of Education has mixed feelings about the bill. Cawiezell says, "I don’t know whether or not I can say that we’re 100% behind the compulsory age but we do believe they should be in kindergarten," Cawiezell says. She says their only concern is that it would cost the state more money.
Paul McKinley, a Republican from Chariton, says since most kids are already enrolled by that age, the bill is a solution in search of a problem. "It sounds like we have a lot of unanswered questions. I think we should defer until we get those answers," McKinley says. Heckroth said he agreed with that approach.
The Department of Education is analyzing data to determine how many five-year-olds aren’t enrolled in kindergarten already.