If you’ve read today’s Peach Pundit Daily, you’re aware that HB 100 is in the works. The legislation would move the cutoff date for kindergarten eligibility in Georgia public schools from September 1 to August 1, beginning this fall. Ultimately, the cutoff date would be June 30. Most Georgia public schools start in early August, so moving the cutoff date to reflect today’s school calendars isn’t a bad idea, and there are studies on the educational merits of earlier cutoffs – but implementing the change this fall is ill-advised.
When Malcolm Gladwell published Outliers in 2008, he brought the concept of redshirting kindergartners to the masses, beyond just parents of kids born in July and August. The concept has been around for decades; my birthday is in late August and I’m certain my parents considered starting kindergarten a year later for me and my younger brother, whose birthday is a few days from mine (spoiler alert: they didn’t; I turned 18 a week before I started college; I turned out okay). This 2010 piece in the New York Times Magazine focused on redshirting kindergartners, and the discussion is ongoing.
HB 100 is legislative redshirting, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the change can’t happen this fall. A look at the bill’s sponsors leads me to assume that none of the gentlemen have recently been on the front lines of parenting a little kid, so it’s understandable that they might not realize that preschool enrollment and re-enrollment for the coming fall is happening now.
Across Georgia, parents of nascent kindergartners with August birthdays (who have opted not to redshirt) plan to enroll their child in kindergarten this August. Accordingly, they are not planning to enroll their four-year-old in another year of pre-K. If this law passes as it is currently written, children with August birthdays will have to wait another year to start kindergarten, but by the time the bill is law, the enrollment period for pre-K will have long passed. To put it delicately, these parents will be S.O.L., and – speaking only for myself, and my children didn’t inherit my late August birthday, so I have no dog in this fight – that is the kind of situation that would elevate my rage to spider monkey levels of incandescence.
Putting aside the redshirting debate, it doesn’t sound like bad policy to change the cutoff date for kindergarten attendance so that it better correlates with the first day of school. Regardless, implementing the change this fall, while it would certainly unify a voting block of parents that would transcend party and socio-economic lines, must be reconsidered.