The state Senate has passed legislation requiring kindergarten for every five year old in Wisconsin. The bill passed on a party line 17-15 vote Tuesday, following Assembly passage of the legislation last week.
The problem which the problem is designed to address – kids whose parents enroll them in kindergarten but don’t see to it they attend regularly – is largely a Milwaukee problem, according to Neenah Republican state Senator Mike Ellis. “What you’re doing to solve a problem in the Milwaukee school system, is imposing a mandate on the other school districts in the state of Wisconsin,” said Ellis. “I surveyed my school districts. They don’t have this problem.”
“This is not a Milwaukee-only problem,” countered by the bill’s Senate sponsor, Milwaukee Democrat, Senator Spencer Coggs. “This happens across the state. It’s a small number of children, but it happens across the state.”
Coggs said local districts will be able to develop policies to determine whether or not individual six year old students ready for first grade – and that parents of five year-olds will be subject to state truancy laws if their kids aren’t attending kindergarten. Current state law doesn’t mandate that five year-old children attend kindergarten. Proponents of the legislation say too many parents are using kindergarten as day care, enrolling their five year-old kids, but not seeing to it that the children attend on a regular basis.