Cutoff date for kindergarten to be debated by full Oklahoma Senate
A Senate education committee voted Tuesday to move up Oklahoma’s kindergarten and prekindergarten cutoff date by one month, which would be one of the earliest dates in the country.
Senate Bill 11 would require children to be 5 years old by Aug. 1 to attend kindergarten — and 4 years old for prekindergarten— rather than by the current cutoff date of Sept. 1.
The bill was approved in the Senate Common Education Committee by a vote of 9 to 5 and now heads to the full Senate.
Supporters said the new cutoff date would give kindergarten and prekindergarten teachers a more mature class, especially at a time when class sizes in Oklahoma remain high and some vital classroom resources can be scarce due to funding limitations.
Sen. Carri Hicks, a former kindergarten teacher who voted against the bill, said delaying the start of school by one year for children born in August would be harmful to those children.
“For students who would fall in the cracks by moving the September date back to August, they are eliminated from being able to attend high-quality instructional programs,” said Hicks, D-Oklahoma City. “What do they experience in that year when they are not receiving high-quality instructional opportunities?”
Sen. Greg McCortney, the author of SB 11, said the new cutoff date would better prepare children for school.
“I’m pretty sure (those students) would experience growing up and they will experience the maturation process. They will show up at school the next year ready to succeed,” said McCortney, R-Ada.
At least four other states have an Aug. 1 cutoff date, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Most states have a September or October cutoff date.
Sen. J.J. Dossett, D-Owasso, voted in favor of the bill and said he had heard from kindergarten teachers who support the date change.
“I believe these professionals know what’s best for these kids and they have adequately explained to me that this will help them do their jobs,” Dossett said.