School starting age would change under House bill

11:59 AM, Apr 11, 2012   |    comments
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Written by
Brian Wilson
The Tennessean

Legislation changing the cut-off age for students entering kindergarten is headed to the state House floor despite additional amendments that could be added there.

The bill, which would require nearly all kindergarten students to be 5 by mid to late August, passed the House Finance Committee on Tuesday. The Senate bill is still in committee.

The legislation would affect about 4,500 students, according to figures cited by the sponsor, Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin.

The bill would go into effect for the 2013-14 school year and would require students to be 5 by Aug. 31. The cut-off would be changed to Aug. 15 in later years. The legislation does provide for exceptions. Four-year-olds born after July 31 could enter kindergarten if they passed a test showing their emotional and academic maturity.

The House bill's procedural issue revolved around the potential that the temporary drop in students from the legislation could result in the laying off of some teachers. To counter that, House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, D-Ripley, proposed an amendment that would require any savings generated from having fewer students to be directed to having smaller classes instead of laying off teachers. That change must be made on the House floor to become effective.

"I think it's a great way to complete this transaction so that everyone on the front end knows there not going to be any disruption with their schools, their staff, their classroom allocation or anything like that," Casada said on the floor.

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