Change in kindergarten law causes confusion

Photos by Traci Westcott/The Herald
David Turnham Education Center kindergartner Adaya Groeschen sounds out a word while working on a writing assignment at the school in Dale on Monday. 

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

News of a change in Indiana education law regarding kindergarten caused confusion earlier this month.

Schools and citizens initially thought the change moved the cutoff date for kindergarten eligibility to Sept. 1. However, a few days after the news broke, the Indiana Department of Education issued a directive that said that wasn’t the case. The cutoff date for kindergarten eligibility will remain Aug. 1, meaning kids who turn 5 years old on or before Aug. 1 are eligible to enroll in kindergarten, though school is not mandatory until age 7.

Instead, the change gives schools state funding for students who start kindergarten before their fifth birthday, but are 5 by Sept. 1, through local early-enrollment programs.

“Before, if you had [a student] early enrolled in kindergarten, the state wouldn’t fund it,” explained North Spencer Superintendent Dan Scherry.

In Indiana, the state provides tuition funding to schools based on enrollment for students in kindergarten though 12th grade. Laws allow schools to enroll students in kindergarten before their fifth birthdays at parents’ request if the students can pass simple assessments set by local school boards. In the past, the state would not pay tuition for students who enrolled early.

David Turnham Education Center kindergartners, from left, Carlos Santillan-Rodriguez, Jesus Angeles, Isabella Smith, Makayla Schaefer and Armani Francisco line up to walk to special in their classroom in Dale on Monday.

Southeast Dubois Superintendent Rick Allen said it’s rare for parents to request early enrollment. Although several parents called Southeast Dubois’ elementary schools Pine Ridge and Ferdinand after news of the change broke, they decided not to enroll their students early after school staff explained what the law actually meant.

“Very, very few parents want their kid being the smallest and the youngest in the class,” Allen said.

Scherry agreed. Generally, he said, North Spencer gets less than one request a year for early enrollment, and even fewer pass the assessments.

“We find that with that social maturity, they just aren’t ready,” Scherry said.




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