LITTLE ROCK, AR - Who should decide when your child starts school? Right now the state legislature decides. But one lawmaker wants to give that choice back to parents.
In Arkansas, a child must be 5 on August 1st to start kindergarten. The law makes no exceptions for kids who might be ready before then.
"If their child is ready for school, allow them to start school before they turn 5," Collins says.
As a kindergarten teacher herself, Carrie Collins likes the August 1st date. But as a parent to 4-year old Josie, who turns five on August 3rd, not so much.
"My only problem is that I don't have any control, I have no options,” Collins says. The state is regulating when my daughter can go to school."
That's where freshman Rep Loy Mauch (R-Bismarck) stepped in with a bill to give parents that option.
"We want to get the people together, I guess there's a lot of friction between the two sides,” Mauch says. “We just want to find some common ground."
While most lawmakers think some kids below the age of five can start school from an educational standpoint, a lot of times socially, they say, they're just not ready.
to give parents that flexibility went nowhere in the last legislative session. It might have a chance next time around.
But educational experts like Richard Abernathy with the Arkansas Association of Education Administrators says creating exceptions gets dicey.
"95, 96, 97 percent of the kids will fall within the time frame on the date,” Abernathy says. “Now if there are some exceptions out there, of course all parents think their kindergarten child is exceptional, so that's going to be another issue. But if there are, whatever we do, we need to keep the August 1st date in place.”
Collins knows a law change won't help Josie next fall, but it could help some gifted children get into a kindergarten classroom sooner.
Collins knew about the August first cutoff while she was pregnant with Josie. And she even considered inducing labor early to have her born sooner.
The General Assembly enacted the August 1st date to make sure all students would be five when kindergarten starts. In previous years, the date was as late as November 1st, allowing a large portion of 4-year old children to start kindergarten.