MS Legislators Work to Make Kindergarten Mandatory for Kids

Many parents send their children to kindergarten, but in the State of Mississippi, it is not a requirement. Legislators in Jackson are working with school districts to change sending your child to kindergarten from optional to mandatory.

According to the Institute of Education Services, only 16 states require 5 year olds to attend kindergarten. Mississippi is not one of them, a practice local educators believe needs to change. Belinda Dammen, Assistant Superintendent of the Pascagoula School District, says, "Each year, we have a small number in our district that do not attend kindergarten and they are always so far behind. I don’t know why we have waited so long for this to happen."

Right now, sending your child to kindergarten is a choice available to all parents, yet not everyone is taking advantage of it. Legislators in Jackson are working to get that changed by making kindergarten in a requirement. State Representative for District 119, Sonya Williams Barnes, says, "In order for us to ensure our children get a good start, we must ensure that they’re in the classroom."

While Mississippi tends to lag behind other states in education, lawmakers see this as an opportunity to lead the way in kindergarten readiness. Representative Williams Barnes is looking to get the K.I.D.s Act passed this legislative session. K.I.D.s stands for Kindergarten Increases Diplomas.

Research has shown attending kindergarten decreases illiteracy and increases the number of children graduating with a high school diploma. Lawanda Thornton, a counselor at Gaston Point Elementary School, says, "It’s so important because this is where we lay the groundwork. This is where students learn to aspire to believe in themselves. So I feel if we make it a mandatory rule that we across the board will succeed, not only in kindergarten, but throughout the rest of our lives."

Starting this year, children who cannot read at grade level by the end of 3rd grade will be held back. Williams Barnes believes if we ensure children are in the classroom learning to read by age 5, they will be much more likely to hit that milestone by 3rd grade.

Categories: Local News, News

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