The Illinois Senate has introduced a bill that would lower the compulsory age that children are required to attend school from 6 to 5. Senate Bill 2075 was introduced last February and, if passed, would require children in the State of Illinois who are 5 years of age or older to be enrolled in school by the 2020-2021 school year. In addition, it would also require all schools to provide kindergarten classes for 5-year-olds. The bill passed through the senate by a vote of 39-16 on April 11, 2019 and is currently sitting in the House awaiting further action.
Some Illinois parents might remember a similar amendment from September of 2014, when Illinois lowered the compulsory school age from 7 to 6. However, this new proposal would bring Illinois in line with Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, and seven other states with the lowest mandatory schooling age. Currently, children ages 6-17 are required to attend school, and parents have the option of enrolling children as young as 4 in kindergarten programs.
The chief co-sponsor of the bill, Sen. Kimberly Lightford, has stated she believes the bill will allow children a better chance of success, by introducing children to the classroom at an earlier age and “mak[ing] learning a habit for children across Illinois.” However, some parents disagree. At a Senate hearing, 2,229 Illinois residents showed up to file witness slips opposing the bill, while only 7 residents were in favor of the bill.
One of the main criticisms of the bill from parents is a concern with the state taking decisions away from them. Some parents do not feel as though their children are ready to attend school at age 5 and would like to be able to have some leeway to make this decision. Some Illinois residents are also concerned that the bill does not include an estimate for how much it will cost to create a statewide kindergarten program for 5-year-olds.
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