Should the Kindergarten Cutoff Date Be Changed?

A state House committee is taking up legislation that would require children be 5 by Sept. 1 to start kindergarten, and the Rochester school superintendent weighs in.

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.

Joshua Raymond March 21, 2012 at 02:05 PM
That is a tough question. There are some children ready for kindergarten at age four and others that are better starting at a late 5. I can understand the state's desire to codify this for what they believe will be best for most children, but there should be a stronger provision than the waiver process created that would allow parents to enroll their children early. I believe many districts or principals would have a blanket denial to granting waivers even to kids who are ready and would have been eligible under the old law.
Daryl Patrishkoff March 21, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Many years ago when I started kindergarten I was 4 years old. My birthday is in early October, so the rules said I started school then. Through my entire K - 12 experiences it was never an issue, however, that was me and my personality. I content not all children are ready to start school in those circumstances, not that I was better, I was different. I believe if the child falls into this Sep 2 to Dec 1 window the parents make the call, only the parents! They know if the child is ready or not, not a school official with a waiver. I call this personal responsibility and a choice made by the parents. For the districts being up in arms about the funding loss, that is stupid. That is why a school official should not make the decision. I thought it was about the kids!
MBear March 21, 2012 at 04:56 PM
If those 147 kindergarten students with birthdays between Sept 2 and Dec 1 didn't enroll, they wouldn't need the funding to pay for their education. So, is there really a "loss" of funding?
Rose Deliu March 21, 2012 at 04:58 PM
I agree that this should be a parents choice and only the parents choice!
Momofthree March 21, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Many other states have September cut off dates..why shouldn't Michigan? I have two children that were November brays and because of the cutoff I held them back. Initially the funding might be a problem but after the first year it would be fine.
vanessa howell March 21, 2012 at 06:31 PM
The school year starts in September so the cut off should too. Yes they would lose funding for one year, but they would receive a bumper crop the next year when all those in-between kids started school. My kids have a Sept birthday so they are the youngest in the year and started school when they were 4 and coming from the UK I thought that was late - they were more than ready for full day school and would have started a year earlier and full time back home!! It annoys me that some parents are allowed to hold their kids back - I think the cut offs should be mandatory - there are children in my kids year at school who are nearly 2 years older than them!!
Sherry March 21, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Yes, the date should be changed!!! and I agree with Daryl, if it were truly a decision about the benefits to the students (the young ones who might enroll, as well as the other children with whom the classroom is shared), funding should not be the deciding factor.
chris murray March 21, 2012 at 09:56 PM
Sometimes children are ready in the sense that they can print their name and some of the other things that are required to demonstrate readiness. However, what happens when they are the youngest in their class starts to become very noticeable as they enter middle school and into the high school years. Yes, there are those few that are extremely mature for their age but we can't always rush puberty. You often begin to see where the very young ones are left behind.
Char Kruse March 21, 2012 at 10:37 PM
I think the cut off date should be June 1. I had both ways a Nov. birthday started her at four,she did fine but was very shy and socially behind. I had twins born in mid Aug. I held them back and never regreted it.
Pat Wittenbach March 21, 2012 at 10:53 PM
Most states already have the cut off date as Sept 1st. We should be there.
Joshua Raymond March 21, 2012 at 11:14 PM
Chris, That is a great reason we should scrap our chronological grades and go to a system where students go to classes based on ability. Once they master a subject, they move up a level. Students who progress quickly can finish high school material early and move forward with college coursework. Alternatively, in some districts, high-schoolers who need extra time can stick around for another year. Advocates say the approach cuts down on discipline problems because advanced students aren't bored and struggling students aren't frustrated. Researchers found that students who learned through this approach were 2.5 times more likely to score at a level that shows they have a good grasp of the material on exams for reading, writing, and mathematics. See more at http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2010-07-05-grade-held-back_N.htm
Marty Rosalik March 22, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Leave it alone! We had the option to hold our child with the late September birthday and start the next year at an older 5. Looking back I am so glad we did NOT! Based on advice from a trusted and now departed Judith Long and her Childhood Development class at Adams High, we put my child in before her 5th birthday. She is thriving. The state has intruded too far already. Let parents decide with guidance if needed. The lost state funding would be a ONE-time one year issue. Not worth bringing into this.
Marie March 22, 2012 at 12:44 AM
First of all, this is not a money issue. This is a "readiness" issue and it is best left up to the parents.
Marie March 22, 2012 at 12:57 AM
excellent point
Marie March 22, 2012 at 12:59 AM
But what about the children who are "educationally" equal or ahead of the other children the same age or younger. Parents should decide, not the government
Kristin Bull (Editor) March 22, 2012 at 09:07 PM
An update: The bill stayed in committee. We'll keep you posted when there's any action.
Christine March 23, 2012 at 02:40 AM
It doesn't matter WHEN the cutoff is. If you move it to Sept. 1, then kids born from May through Aug. will be the "young ones." Those born in Sept will be the oldest. If you move it to June, children born February through May will be the youngest in their class, etc. I am a teacher, and always say parents know their own child best. If there is ANY doubt, SEND them! You can always repeat Kindergarten. Holding them back and changing your mind a year or two later when they are bored is much more emotionally and developmentally taxing on the child and the school.
Daryl Patrishkoff March 23, 2012 at 11:08 AM
Christine, That is the smartest (and funniest) comment on this subject; someone will always be the youngest! Simple and true and I completely agree that the parents know their own kids the best and should make the decision. If they make the decision they have “skin in the game”, they will be involved to ensure they made the right decision. We all know parental involvement in their children’s education is a powerful partner with the teachers that will provide success. We need to listen to this true honest wisdom from a teacher with common sense based on real experience in the classroom.
Diane March 24, 2012 at 12:06 AM
We should definitely change the date to September 1. Everyone would be the same age at the start of school. Yes children have different maturity levels, but that happens now as well. This would eliminate a lot of confusion and December 1st is not the start of the school year or the calendar year so that date makes no sense. You have children who are not turning five until well into the school year. Waivers should be granted for this first year, but we should make this switch.
Bernie April 03, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Absoloutely, send them if you can. Forcing an extra year of 'home schooling' on a child is going to be less efficient than repeating kindergarden, which would be the worst case scenario. Many women with children have left the workplace to care for their young, until their children are back in school. Forcing them to stay out of the workforce for an extra year, against their will, is wrong.
Amie Gamache May 26, 2012 at 02:14 PM
There are only 2 states with a later start date than us- which leaves 47 states starting sooner. We're moving toward a national curriculum in 2014. Seems wise allow our students to play at the same level as the rest of the country. The change is also happening as the curriculum has changed from what we experienced as kindergarteners ourselves- it's much more like 1st grade. Over the last 18 years of teaching k-2 I have met parents who wished they gave their child an extra year but I've yet to meet a parent who kept their child home an extra year and regretted it!
Joshua Raymond May 26, 2012 at 03:52 PM
If the date is left as it currently is, parents have the easy option of delaying their children a year if they need to. If the date is changed, it becomes much harder for parents whose kids are ready to put them into kindergarten. It should be left as it is now and let parents decide!
Joshua Raymond May 26, 2012 at 03:54 PM
My parents held me back a year for kindergarten and I have regretted it.
HollyG June 04, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Yes, there is a loss of funding. Schools are funded per student. Now, they are still paying nearly the same costs to run a classroom that will have empty seats.


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