Support from Governor Tom Wolf may help push the legislature to lower the age at which Pennsylvania children must enroll in school – a move that is long overdue – state Senator Andy Dinniman said this week.
While most school districts in Pennsylvania offer at least half-day kindergarten, the Pennsylvania Public School Code does not require students to attend school until age 8.
“It sends the wrong message about our commitment to early childhood education,” Dinniman, who serves as minority chair of the Senate Education Committee, said. “Frankly, for us to continue to follow a law that says the beginning of a child’s educational pursuit can begin at age eight is an embarrassment.”
In his budget address on Tuesday, Wolf called for lowering the age of compulsory attendance to age 6 to bring “our commonwealth in line with the vast majority of other states.”
Wolf also called for “a careful study of the costs and benefits of moving to universal free full-day kindergarten” for every child in Pennsylvania.
Dinniman, who has reintroduced legislation to lower the compulsory age to children who turn 5 years old as of September 1 of the school year, said the move is a necessary precaution.
“As the law is currently written, technically, a school district that is struggling financially, as some of ours are, could potentially opt to cut costs by ending kindergarten through second grade,” he said. “That would have tragic, long-term consequences for students in poorer districts.”
Dinniman’s bill was reintroduced this week. It already has 10 co-sponsors.