Bill moves to raise Georgia’s kindergarten birthday cutoff

State representatives are pushing legislation that would move up the birthday cutoff date for children entering kindergarten in the state of Georgia. House bill 100 aims to require a child be at least 5 years old prior to Aug. 1 for the 2017-2018 school year – a one month increase from the current regulation – and then 5 years of age by July 1 for 2018 and years following.

State Rep. Tom Dickson, R-Cohutta, served as the primary sponsor to HB 100. Dickson holds a master’s in education from the University of Tennessee and an educational specialist degree from the University of West Georgia. Since the start of his career in 1967, Dickson has taught at both elementary and middle school levels, as well as serving as Superintendent for Schools from 1998-2003 when he retired.

Dickson decided to put forth this legislation after many discussions with lower elementary teachers. With the start of school constantly being moved earlier and earlier, but the birthday cutoff date remaining the same, some children are spending their first month in kindergarten as 4-year-olds, while others are already 5 or 6 years old. These inconsistencies among pupils’ ages cause some difficulties for educators, and more often than not younger students need additional assistance and attention to make it through the first few months.

“The more homogenous the classroom is in a kindergarten environment, in many ways, the easier it is to work with those kids,” said Dickson.

Additional sponsors to the bill included State Rep. Bubber Epps, R-Dry Branch; State Rep. Gerald Greene, R-Cuthbert; State Rep. Brooks Coleman, R-Duluth; and State Rep. Terry England, R-Auburn.

England serves as Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and Co-Chair of the Agricultural Education Advisory Commission. He is also a member of the House Education Committee and believes this bill will have more impact than meets the eye.

“You don’t think about it a whole lot that a month could make that big of a difference in the maturity of a child, but when you look at it, it might be 11 months difference in maturity,” said England. “That’s where you see the real difference.”

In a statement released by Georgia Schools Superintendent Richard Woods, Woods expressed his support for the bill.

“Some younger students, especially 4-year-olds, are not developmentally ready for kindergarten,” Woods said in a statement issued by his office. “Oftentimes their presence in a classroom requires teachers to provide pre-kindergarten services to the disadvantage of the older students who are ready to learn at the kindergarten level and achieve the high academic standards we have in Georgia.”

The Georgia House of Representatives passed HB 100 in a 110-53 vote on Feb. 19, 2015. From there, it moved to the Senate Education & Youth committee, where it remained until the session ended in late April. The bill will be revisited when the General Assembly reconvenes in January 2016.

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