Proposed legislation that would change the kindergarten age requirements in Michigan would, if passed, have some financial fallout in Rochester and across Michigan.
The bills, which would require children be 5 years old by Sept. 1 to start kindergarten (right now they must be 5 by Dec. 1) will be considered Wednesday morning by the House Education Committee.
Superintendent Fred Clarke weighed in on the proposed laws during a recent Rochester Board of Education meeting, saying that they could cost the district about $1 million the year they are implemented.
At each board meeting, Clarke takes time to update board members on pending state legislation that would impact the district.
"Philosophically it makes sense; sometimes a 4-year-old is not able to handle kindergarten," Clarke said.
However, this year there were 147 kindergarten students with birthdays between Sept. 1 and Dec. 1; if those students had not been able to enroll, the district would have lost their per-pupil state funding.
"This has a lot of school districts up in arms," Clarke said.
House Bills 4513 and 4514 are sponsored by Rep. Ray Franz, R-Onekama. Under the working bills, the parents of a student turning 5 between Sept. 2 and Dec. 1 could ask for a waiver from the school district. Representatives of the district would then meet to determine whether that student was ready for kindergarten.
Based on Census estimates, 21,000 kindergarteners will turn 5 between Sept. 2 and Dec. 1 during the 2012-13 school year, reducing state per-pupil expenditures by about $154 million.
Rochester Community Schools is implementing a full-day kindergarten curriculum next year.
Clarke said there has been some talk of a gradual implementation of the change: for example, during the first year the cutoff date could be Nov. 1, then Oct. 1 and finally Sept. 1.
"We're encouraged that people are listening and trying to understand this better," he said.
The House Education Committee meets at 9:15 a.m. Wednesday in Lansing. To view text of the legislation go to http://www.legislature.mi.gov/mileg.asp?page=Bills and search for the bills.