Oklahoma City, Oklahoma — State Rep. Dennis Johnson said today he is hopeful Oklahoma kindergarteners will be better prepared to learn if legislation he authored passes.
House Bill 1465 would move the cutoff date for pre-K and kindergarten eligibility from Sept. 1 to July 1. Under the bill, all children who are four years old by July 1 would be eligible for pre-K classes and children who are five years old by July 1 would be eligible for kindergarten.
Children not born by July 1 could still enroll in pre-K or kindergarten with a simple screening.
“The intent of this bill is to make sure the students who are enrolling in kindergarten classes are prepared to be there,” Johnson said. “We’re seeing strong indications that growing numbers of Oklahoma kindergarteners aren’t quite ready to begin the kindergarten learning process. Waiting until these students are prepared is the best thing for the students, the teachers and the families.”
Johnson said the bill specifically targets “summer babies” born between July and September who are typically the youngest in their class and often fall behind during early education years.
“With these younger children, a couple months of development can make an enormous difference in their readiness for the rigors of schools,” Johnson said. “It is harmful to a child’s academic development if they begin their learning process behind the older children in their class, and the teachers I have heard from are seeing this every year in their classes.”
The legislation has passed the House, 78-16, and Senate, 45-0. It is awaiting action from the Senate Education Conference Committee.
“I hope the Senate conference committee will agree with the overwhelming amount of legislators who have voted for this bill. It is a reform that must be passed to help our students, teachers and families,” Johnson said.
The policies in the bill were developed in part through a House interim study on the issue last year.
HB 1465 also has the support of the Professional Educators of Oklahoma, which conducted a survey that showed 96.7 percent of teachers believe the cutoff date should be moved from Sept. 1 to July 1.
“Kindergarten teachers are struggling with children who are simply not ready for school,” Johnson said. “This bill was requested by these kindergarten teachers. Their judgment is sound on this issue because they are the ones on the ground in classrooms statewide.”
An unscientific online survey of state kindergarten teachers conducted earlier this month revealed enthusiastic support among them for HB 1465.
“It really hurts a child’s confidence when everyone else can do it and developmentally they just cannot,” one teacher wrote in the survey.
Another teacher wrote: “PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE move this birthdate law forward! EVERYONE will benefit from this. Students will have a better self-esteem and confidence…Teachers will be better able to focus on the core curriculum issues and true teaching.”
Another wrote: “Children need time to mature. It is something that cannot be rushed.”