Mandatory kindergarten bill sails through Louisiana Senate

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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — With little debate, the Louisiana Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly backed a proposal to require all 5-year-old children to attend kindergarten.

A 34-1 vote from senators sent the measure by Sen. Cleo Fields, a Baton Rouge Democrat, to the House for consideration.

Louisiana children currently must attend school from the ages of 7 to 18, unless they graduate early from high school. Fields’ proposal would require children who turn 5 years old by Sept. 30 of each year to attend kindergarten, starting with the 2022-23 school year.

Supporters say mandatory kindergarten will help children from falling behind, noting studies show 90% of brain development happens between birth and age 5. Opponents say parents should be allowed to make decisions about their children’s education.

The only Senate vote in opposition came from Sen. Heather Cloud, a Turkey Creek Republican. Cloud said in committee that she didn’t want parents to be penalized with fines or the risk of jail time if they choose to skip kindergarten for their children.

The bill is filed as Senate Bill 10.

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