BATON ROUGE, La (BRPROUD)- Education is taking a highlight this year in the 2021 legislative session with Governor John Bel Edwards putting a focus on raising pay for K-12 teachers as well as Senator Cleo Fields making a push to make attending kindergarten required for all students.
Under state law, all public schools must provide kindergarten, but it is not required for students to attend. With Senate Bill 10, Senator Fields is emphasizing the need to better prepare kids for elementary school.
“It’s an important step. Early childhood education is really important and we got to take that important necessary step,” Sen. Fields said.
He estimates about 4,000 kids throughout the state are skipping kindergarten and it causes some to fall behind at a young age. The senator said there has been a lot of support from teachers.
“The biggest challenge is making sure kids get in school early and we’re giving kids the opportunity to do that and hopefully parents and teachers will take advantage of it,” Sen. Fields said.
There are already talks to amend the bill to allow parents to keep their kids at home for kindergarten. They have to sign up with one of the state’s homeschooling programs.
“There’s just a little hesitancy among folks who want to keep their kids during this very tender age and we’re fixing that by…adding homeschool education,” Sen. Fields said.
Teachers are also keeping a close eye on Governor Edwards’ push to increase the pay for K-12 educators, but at only $400 some say the raise is too small. The last pay raise was in 2019 for $1,000. Governor Edwards proposed a $500 raise in 2020 but it was sidelined during the pandemic. The new legislative session begins on Monday.