McCormick Will Seek Legislation To Lower School Age

Aug 28, 2017

State superintendent Jennifer McCormick will push to make Hoosier children start attending school at a younger age in the upcoming General Assembly session.

She wants to lower the compulsory school age from 7- to 6-years-old.

It’s an effort that has stalled in the past even as Indiana is one of 16 states with a compulsory school age of 7 or older.

Indiana’s Republican majorities have not favored reducing the compulsory age or making kindergarten mandatory.

Legislative leaders say that’s in part because nearly all young children already attend some type of formal schooling before they turn seven.

Yet Republican State superintendent Jennifer McCormick says available data on who attends kindergarten is shaky at best.

“I will be honest with you. It depends on what report you are looking at, what data you are looking at. We just know that we are missing a chunk of kids,” she says.

A 2015 report by Education Week found less than 74 percent of eligible Hoosier children were enrolled in kindergarten programs in 2013. The report was based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Yet the state’s non-partisan Legislative Services Agency has reported only around 1 percent of students did not attend kindergarten in 2013.

McCormick hopes new data compiled by the state Family and Social Services Administration will provide clarity for policy makers.

McCormick says lowering the compulsory school age from 7 to 6 would benefit the same at-risk children the state wants to help with its limited My Way Pre-K program.

“So those are the very kids that we’re trying to target for pre-K that we would like to see that continuation through kindergarten,” she says.

Legislation from Statehouse Democrats in 2015 to require kindergarten by lowering the compulsory school age from seven to five failed. During that year House Education Committee Chairman Robert Behning (R-Indianapolis) said the issue was not a big deal due to state data showing a high rate of kindergarten attendance.