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House approves bill to make kindergarten mandatory, now heads to Senate

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Posted at 9:00 PM, Jun 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-03 22:00:34-04

BATON ROUGE--A bill to make kindergarten mandatory in Louisiana passed the House 59-31 Thursday and will go back to the Senate for final consideration.

Senators will need to decide if they concur with a House amendment changing the birthdate for when children would become eligible.

“Education is the mortal enemy to poverty,” said Rep. Jason Hughes, D-Orleans. “It just makes sense because it is good for our children and because it is good for our state.”

In a floor debate that lasted an hour and 10 minutes, opposing arguments were unable to kill the bill and resulted in just that one change.

The original bill would have required children turning five by September 30 to start kindergarten that fall. Amendment 3887 by Rep. Thomas Pressly, R-Shreveport, moved up the eligibility to children with birth dates by March 31.

Pressly’s amendment passed 57-38.

If the Senate passes the bill before the session ends next Thursday, the bill will move to the governor’s desk to sign.

Hughes reported that as of 2019, 160,000 students in Louisiana could not read.

Many arguments were debated relating to the impact of the bill, such as sports eligibility, truancy and parent’s choice.

The bill will allow parents to send their children to kindergarten at a public or private school or home-school them.

“The bill will allow homeschooling,” Hughes said. “Parents have the right to send their child to their school of choice.”

Rep. Beryl Amedeé argued that lowering the compulsory attendance age to attend kindergarten from seven to five keeps parents from having a choice in deciding if a child is ready or not.

Amedeé’s amendment failed to pass with a 30-65 vote.

Some lawmakers were disappointed that everyone was not able to speak before voting on the final passage.

“I am absolutely totally disgusted that you would not allow for a full debate on this important debate,” said Rep. Polly Thomas, R-Metairie.

Also on Thursday, two bills relating to campus safety and accountability in higher education were adopted as the House concurred with Senate amendments.

Lawmakers concurred with the Senate amendments for House Bills 394 and HB 409.

House Bill 409 mandates college employees report known power-based violence violations under threat of termination and gives more clarity on to whom they should report violations.

The bill stemmed from a scandal involving sexual assault allegations against LSU football players that the school did not properly investigate.

House Bill 394 requires colleges and universities to post their campus policies and crime statistics on their websites.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 2 was recommitted to the House Appropriations Committee.

The resolution supports the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education budget plan and the pay raises of $800 for teachers and $400 for K-12 support personnel.

The resolution is scheduled for debate in the Appropriations Committee on Monday.

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