Consider a Later Start Date for the Earlier Cutoff

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.

4 comments

  1. TKrause says:

    Another factor to consider is that, in most families, both parents work. Gone are the days when the mother is home with a pre-K kid. My second child was very much ready for kindergarten, but she was born Sept. 10. That meant, because she was 10-days too young, we had to keep her in daycare for another year. In Midtown, that’s $1,200 a month. I’m not advocating sending 3-year-olds to kindergarten, but I think any change that gives more leeway to the parents is a good thing.

    • saltycracker says:

      Fair position when a child is ready for education. Not so good when a disruptive move. As when the support is based on public baby sitting for those not ready or sick. For them they might be better served by the public funding of child care or orphanages from the get go.

  2. backer2 says:

    I love in a state that is promoting “Move On When Ready,” that we don’t have flexibility to start our children when they are ready. Georgia is already in line with most states in the Union with a Sept 1 cutoff (only 4 states are earlier). This move would make Georgia the most restrictive in the nation. Additionally, they hamstring options with a requirement that you must be 6 to enter 1st grade. This forces parents of exceptional kids to have to pay for three years of schooling (private pre-K, K, and 1st) before a student may come to the public school system. How are we to get better educationally as a state when we hold our best and brightest back (especially those who do not come from families of means…so they have no choice to sit and wait)? Redshirting is exacerbating the problem by creating more age disparity in kindergarten and making the August birthdays look more immature than they actually are. That said, I fully support the right for parents to hold their kids back, if they feel that is best for them. I don’t support the state mandating less choice for August and July birthdays. Besides, all this will do is make June and May birthdays the immature ones in a class which will push some of those parents to redshirt, putting pressure on the state to move it to May 30…etc. It is a never ending cycle. Stop it before it starts.

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