Legislature to revisit school cutoff dates

By Chris Kieffer

Daily Journal

TUPELO – The Mississippi legislature will undo language signed into law this week that would have changed the cutoff date for when students can enter kindergarten or first grade, said the chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

The law specified students must have their fifth birthday on before Aug. 1 to enroll in kindergarten during that school year and their sixth birthday by that date to enter first grade. Previously the deadline had been Sept. 1. It was part of Senate Bill 2571, which also gave districts flexibility to start school earlier in August.

TOLLISON

TOLLISON

Its biggest impact would be on those students whose birthdays fall between Aug. 1 and Sept. 1, especially since many had already entered pre-kindergarten programs and had anticipated enrolling in kindergarten this fall. It would also have affected students currently enrolled in kindergarten but who do not turn 6 by Aug. 1. They would not be able to enter first grade.

Oxford Republican Gray Tollison, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said those immediate consequences were unintended. He said the legislature would revert the cutoff date to Sept. 1 this year. He expects to revisit the issue next year and look at phasing in the change.

The change was supported by research that shows children are better prepared if they are older when they start school, Tollison said. It was recommended by a task force of superintendents, he said.

Tupelo Superintendent Gearl Loden said he was glad to hear the change wouldn’t be made immediately. He noted the district already has held its open houses for next school year.

“We are glad they are going to reverse this because this change would have resulted in approximately 10 percent of children not entering school next year,” he said.

chris.kieffer@journalinc.com

  • Tony

    First, they should have let parents know several months in advance if this change was coming. Preschools and kindergartens make their plans weeks before registration begins. I know of several preschools that are booked for next year, expecting some current students to be moving on to kindergarten. This would have been a fiasco this year for those parents caught unawares.

    Second, I understand the rationale starting school at an older age, but what research shows one MONTH makes a difference? This seems more of a one-time money saving scheme (less kindergarteners = less funds) than legitimate educational concern. Also, I believe California’s enrollment is December 1st, so I guess our students will be 5 months’ smarter than theirs?

  • charlie

    Have you noticed that the repubs are quick to make new rules, then when they blow up in their face, they respond, “those immediate consequences were unintended”. The state has a new $300,000 a year “out of state” state superintendent of education. Why don’t they let her do her job, fund education at the proper levels and see how that works? I don’t think they have tried that. Mr. Tollison, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, is the champion of “Charter Schools” that don’t have to follow the rules. Go figure!