Move would help Hoosier children

Indiana is one of 15 states that doesn’t require school attendance until age 7.

The state’s top education official would like to change that.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick would like to see kindergarten become mandatory in Indiana, and plans to advocate for that during the 2018 General Assembly.

She has her work cut out for her. In previous years, bills that would have required children to attend kindergarten have stalled in the Republican-led legislature.

In 2015, two bills that sought to make kindergarten mandatory for Hoosier children — supported by then-Superintendent Glenda Ritz — never made it out of committee. At the time, House Education Committee Chair Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, said there was no need to lower the compulsory school age because most children already attend classes at age 5 — and parents should have the choice whether or not to send them.

But McCormick said about 7,000 children in Indiana aren’t enrolled in kindergarten — 5,000 of them considered at-risk — and they could face many disadvantages when they start school. She said that lowering the compulsory school age from 7 to 6 would benefit the same at-risk children Indiana wants to help with its pre-K program.

Given the state’s long overdue investment in early childhood education, McCormick’s concerns are timely and appropriate. Further, they are supported by research showing a strong connection between kindergarten attendance and reading and math achievement.

In a recent presentation, McCormick said, “We’re going to go after the legislation. We’re creating a lot of noise.”

Lawmakers should be listening. It’s a solid idea that would help Hoosier children succeed.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to dr-editorial@greenfieldreporter.com.