House Appropriations advances Senate-approved legislation mandating children who turn five years old on or before September 30th attend Kindergarten.

The vote was 19-1 with Bossier City Representative Raymond Crews the lone dissenter. He said he’s been bombarded with calls from concerned constituents who worry they will be arrested if they don’t send their child to kindergarten.

“You said 90% of the brain develops between zero and five, but how do we know that the importance of being with parents and family is not more important than being at school at that age?” Crews asked bill author Baton Rouge Senator Cleo Fields and other experts who testified on behalf of the legislation.

Fields contended that children aren’t being forced to go into a school, but they must receive an education starting at five.

“You just sign up your kid with the Department of Education and say I’m homeschooling my kid,” said Fields. “We have one of the most liberal home school programs in the country.”

The bill would impact an estimated 2,800 students a year at most, and cost about 11 million dollars extra a year if all of those students went to school instead of being homeschooled. If passed the law would go into effect for the 2022-2023 school year.

19 states currently mandate Kindergarten attendance including Texas. According to Department of Education stats, only 49% of students in Louisiana are reading on grade level in 1st grade.

Alexandria Representative Lance Harris said 54,000 students are already doing kindergarten every year, so it’s clear nearly all parents understand it is an important step.

“A lot of the emails that I am getting, I’m not sure that their kids are in kindergarten and most families it would seem would want to put them in there so they get the education that they need,” said Harris.

The bill heads to the House floor.

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