State Board of Education Supports Plans for Kids to Start School By 6 and Stay Until 18

The State Board of Education is supporting Governor Tom Wolf’s proposal to require students to start school by age 6 and remain until age 18. Both changes are key components of the governor’s Statewide Workforce, Education, and Accountability Program (SWEAP). The bold plan in the 2019-20 budget proposal would create the strongest and most qualified workforce in the nation.

“I applaud the State Board of Education for supporting this plan that will help thousands of students to get a better education,” said Governor Wolf. “We must make sure our children have the training and skills for emerging high-demand jobs. That means modernizing outdated requirements, so kids get a good start to their education and continue through graduation.”

The first resolution approved by the board this week supports lowering the required age to start school from 8 to 6. Approximately 3,300 children would enroll. Pennsylvania is one of only two states that allow children to wait until age 8 to begin school. The requirement was established in 1895 and does not reflect the educational needs of students in the 21st century.

“Education is the foundation on which students build successful lives,” said State Board of Education Chair Karen Farmer White. “Students fare better when they start school at an earlier age and position themselves for success when they stay in school, graduate and earn a high school diploma.”

The board’s other resolution backs the governor’s proposal to raise the dropout age from 17, which was set in 1949, to 18. After 70 years, most jobs today require training and education beyond a high school diploma.

Each year, more than 13,800 Pennsylvania students leave school without graduating. In 2016-17 alone, students dropping out before finishing high school will cost Pennsylvania taxpayers and economy an estimated $13.2 billion in lost lifetime earnings and increased public costs. Raising the dropout age will better prepare students for good, middle-class jobs and help to close the skills gap so businesses can hire enough educated and talented people to thrive and expand in Pennsylvania.

Another component in the governor’s SWEAP plan includes recruiting and retaining qualified teachers by raising the minimum salary from the current $18,500 to $45,000. Across the state, 180 out of 500 school districts would receive money to raise the minimum salaries to $45,000. About 3,100 educators across the Commonwealth would benefit from the governor’s proposal to raise teacher salaries and three out of four are women.