Proposal would bring more mature students in pre-K, Kindergarten
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Published: 09-May-2011

Legislation to allow three more months for children to mature before entering pre-K and Kindergarten programs is pending in the House Conference Committee on Education, which has a meeting scheduled for this Wednesday (May 11). 

House Bill 1465 is co-sponsored by state Rep. Dennis Johnson of Duncan and state Sen. Clark Jolley of Edmond. Both men are Republicans. 

The proposal would move the kindergarten and pre-kindergarten “cutoff date” from September 1 to July 1. As a practical matter, that would mean a child would have to be four by July 1 to enter Pre-K programs, and/or 5 by July 1 to enter kindergarten. 

Sponsors developed the proposal to allow a screening process for students who do not meet the chronological cutoff date, but who might be ready for school in developmental terms. 

In the words of a knowledgeable analyst interviewed by CapitolBeatOK, H.B. 1465 would mean “students are slightly older when beginning school, increasing their level of readiness to grasp necessary concepts and likely reducing discipline and remediation problems.”

The legislation first emerged at the request of Professional Oklahoma Educators, a statewide non-union association for teachers. The group is based in Norman.

After initial discussion in 2009, the idea was the subject of an interim study in 2010. This year, Rep. Johnson, with help from Sen. Jolley and state Rep. Sally Kern, an Oklahoma City Republican, has advanced the bill. 

Members of POE who responded to a survey on the issue were overwhelmingly positive, and often passionate, in defense of the idea. The most consistent theme among the POE members was a shift of even two months would reduce discipline and remediation problems in pre-K and Kindergarten programs.

The new text would, if passed in the Legislature and signed by the governor, amend state law (70 O.S. 2001, Section 1-114) to provide, “A child who has reached the age of four (4) years after July 1 but on or before September 1 shall be entitled to attend an early childhood program if the child has been screened and determined to be ready to enroll in an early childhood program, using a readiness screening procedure approved by the school district and paid for by the parent or guardian.”

The measure also reads, “A child who has reached the age of five (5) years after July 1 but on or before September 1 shall be entitled to enroll in kindergarten if the child has been screened and determined to be ready to enroll in a kindergarten, using a readiness screening procedure approved by the school district and paid for by the parent or guardian.”

The law makes a similar time shift for first graders, “A child who has reached the age of six (6) years after July 1 but on or before September 1 shall be entitled to enroll in first grade if the child has been screened and determined to be ready to enroll in first grade, using a readiness screening procedure approved by the school district and paid for by the parent or guardian.” 

Members of the House Conference Committee on Education, expected to consider the legislation on Wednesday, are drawn from the standing committees on Common Education, and Higher Education & CareerTech. Members of the House Conference Committee are led by Chairman Ann Coody of Lawton and Vice Chairman Todd Thomsen of Ada. 

Other members of the panel include Republicans Corey Holland of Marlow, Dennis Casey of Morrison, Lee Denney of Cushing, Marian Cooksey of Edmond, Gus Blackwell of Laverne, Jadine Nollan of Sand Springs, and Elise Hall of Oklahoma City.

Also serving on the House Conference Committee on Education are Democrats Ed Cannaday of Porum, Steve Kouplen of Beggs, Jeannie McDaniel of Oklahoma City and Jabar Shumate of Tulsa. 

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