Mandatory Kindergarten is Not About the Children

Senator Kimberly Lightford wants mandatory kindergarten for our Illinois children.  She has a bill waiting to be voted on by the entire Senate that will lower compulsory attendance age to 5 years of age from 7.  Her website says this:

NEWS: Lightford wants mandatory kindergarten

 State Senator Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) believes that for children to succeed, they need to start school by the age of 5.

“Children who start school later struggle to keep up with their peers,” Lightford said. “Many of them start first or second grade without basic reading and math skills. They get discouraged because everyone else is so far ahead of them. That’s not fair to them, their teachers or their parents.”

The Department of Health and Human Services says this, quoted below, summarizing an extensive study about the expensive Head Start program. Head Start is a “federal program that promotes the school readiness of children ages birth to five from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development.”

From the HHS Study:

“In summary, there were initial positive impacts from having access to Head Start, but by the end of 3rd grade there were very few impacts found for either cohort in any of the four domains of cognitive, social-emotional, health and parenting practices,” the HHS study said. “The few impacts that were found did not show a clear pattern of favorable or unfavorable impact on children.”

Senator Lightford also said this:

According to a Chicago Tribune report, nearly 18 percent of Chicago kindergartners and first-graders were chronic truants during the 2010-11 school year, missing nine or more days without a valid excuse.

“Right now, there’s nothing we can do when 5 and 6-year-olds don’t attend school,” said Lightford, the vice-chair of the Education Committee. “And at that age, it’s not the kids’ fault – it’s the parents’. We’re doing these children a disservice if we don’t make every effort to make sure they get the education they’ll need to succeed as adults.”

Chicago apparently has a problem with their “chronic truant” rate for little ones at the age of 5 and 6.  But following up on Senator Lightford’s concern with adult success – on the “back end” – Chicago also has a graduation rate of 60.6%.  It seems a disservice to extend the school reign of chidren’s lives 2 more years.  Besides the fact Senator Lightford is seeking a state-level supposed solution for a city-wide problem. Let Rahm handle it.

But I can sense her urgency in pushing this through, even though the Illinois Association of School Boards said they can’t afford this bill.  They do not agree with Lightford that “the cost to the state should be minimal compared to the overall education budget.”  From the Illinois Association of School Boards:

SB 1307 ( Lightford, D-Chicago) lowers the compulsory school attendance age from 7 years to 5 years. The bill, opposed by the Alliance, was approved by the Senate Education Committee and was sent to the Senate floor for further consideration.

With all that said, what could possibly be driving Senator Lightford’s passion for this bill.  Please note, I didn’t say passion for the chlldren’s well-being, I meant passion for the results of this bill.  Could it be her statement below?

Lightford’s proposal, Senate Bill 1307, lowers Illinois’ compulsory education age from 7 to 5 – a move strongly supported by Illinois teachers. 

I know some excellent Illinois teachers.  I know some really bad Illinois teachers.  More importantly, in this case, I know the teacher unions do not support homeschooling and the IEA totally supports expanding their base.  Two more years of compulsory attendance would fit their highly expensive bill.  If I was a cynical person (I am), I would say that Senator Lightford’s bill was written with much help from the IEA.  Senator Lightford does keep mentioning homeschoolers – whether homeschoolers under-educate our children from 5-7 and whether our rights in Illinois should be tweaked.  I don’t think Senator Lightford wants to “tweak” us in a positive way.

All of the information below is located on page 34 of the IEA Legislative Platform. Bold emphasis is mine.

Illinois Education Association (IEA) on:

Home Schooling

The Association opposes home schooling programs because such programs lack state oversight and cannot provide students with comprehensive education experiences. When home schooling occurs, those students must meet all state requirements. Home school programs must include parental registration with the Regional Office of Education and those individuals providing instruction must be qualified having passed a course or coursed in education approved by the ISBE and must utilize a curriculum approved by the ISBE. The local public school system should have the authority to determine grade placement and/or credits earned toward graduation for students entering or re-entering the public school system from a home school setting.

Early Childhood Education

The Association urges the legislature to establish an early childhood education program beginning at birth. This program shall be provided by appropriately certificated and licensed education employees. The design and structure of early childhood programs should be determined by the developmental needs of the children in those programs. Early childhood programs should provide all children with meaningful education and developmental opportunities based on developmentally appropriate practices. Assessment tools selected to measure early childhood student progress and growth shall be developmentally appropriates as defined by the National Association of the Education of Young Children and supported by research. Early childhood programs should be provided with services and funding equal to those provided to children in grades first through eighth.

Mandatory Kindergarten 

Kindergarten should be a mandatory program with additional funding provided from school districts offering the option of a full-day program for all kindergarten students. The Association further advocates a realistic mandatory minimum age requirement. Kindergarten attendance should be mandatory before entrance into the first grade for resident students. In addition school districts should provide a transitional/developmental class for students who have completed preschool but are not ready for kindergarten and also for students who have completed kindergarten but are not ready for first grade. Funding for kindergarten programs should be equal to that provided for children in grades first through eight.

None of her arguments to pass this bill make sense.  This bill should be defeated.  Illinois is broke, broken and we don’t need any more problems added for our children in this state.  Contact your Senators.

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