LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Lawmakers in several states want to expand the ages children are legally required to attend school with efforts to both increase the drop out age and make kindergarten mandatory.
Lawmakers in Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Nevada, New Jersey, South Carolina, Montana, Mississippi and North Carolina have considered legislation to expand the time students must be in school, and all have failed to gain traction because of public opposition, the Associated Press reports.
In Nevada, lawmakers want to reduce the mandatory attendance age from 7 years old to 6 years old, but parents like Maggie England opposed the bill because she believes parents should decide.
Currently, Nevada offers free education to all students starting at age 5, but it’s not legally required until age 7. About 95 percent of students in Nevada start formal learning by age 6, the AP reports.
“I can appreciate it and I can appreciate the need for it, but if it’s available, I don’t see why it needs to be mandatory for people like me because you’re taking away my rights,” said England, who plans to homeschool her children.
“Nevada is literally 50th in the country for school so I wouldn’t say we’re doing it right, right now,” she said.
Nevada Assemblywoman Oliva Diaz told the AP she sponsored the legislation to lower the compulsory attendance age to push back against the state’s image as the “Mississippi of the West,” and send a message that the state takes education seriously.
“I believe every child deserves a fair and equal shot at the American dream and that starts with school,” said Diaz, a Las Vegas teacher. “I just think it’s going to be a philosophical argument and we’re just going to have to agree to disagree. As a teacher, and as an assemblywoman who represents a very at-risk population, this is fundamental.”
England said she’s skeptical that requiring students to start school sooner will get at the root of the Nevada’s education failures.
“If you’re really concerned about kids dropping out, I don’t think making kindergarten mandatory is really the heart of the issue,” she told the news service.
The Nevada legislation, which is unlikely to pass before the end of the current session, is part of a broader movement to expand mandatory public schooling that started about a decade ago. The effort involves various different initiatives to increase the drop-out age and lower the starting age, but all have failed to gain final approval. Mississippi lawmakers considered six bills alone in the current legislative session.
In places like New York City, elected officials are avoiding a public discussion about the merits of more school and simply expanding programs because it’s the progressive thing to do.
De Blasio launched his “free” universal pre-K program last year, and in April announced plans to expand it to all of the city’s 3-year-olds.
New York Magazine reports:
The city expects to spend an estimated $177 million for the expansion by 2021, but the total cost — nearly $900 million — will require state and federal funding to the tune of $700 million. De Blasio, when asked about the challenges of getting that money, especially from the federal government, said he refused to be “held back by our current reality.”
Education experts, meanwhile, argue efforts to impose more school on students does very little to achieve the objected most policy makers are after: to increase the number of students graduating with a usable diploma.
“It’s intuitive in the sense that you would think if school does us any good, more of it would do us even more good,” the Booking Institution’s Russ Whitehurst told the AP. “Nothing seems irrational. It’s not that it’s a bad thing to do.
“But if you expect to see graduation rates zooming, you’ll likely be disappointed,” he said.