Home schoolers oppose mandatory kindergarten billBISMARCK — Home school advocates are against a bill that would require North Dakota children to attend kindergarten before they can enter first grade.
By: Janell Cole, The Dickinson Press
BISMARCK — Home school advocates are against a bill that would require North Dakota children to attend kindergarten before they can enter first grade.
Senate Bill 2202 also changes state law to lower the age at which children must begin school, from the current 7 to 6. The bill passed the Senate last month, 26-20.
The House Education Committee heard from several people Tuesday who favored the bill, including early childhood education groups and a father.
Sen. JoNell Bakke, D-Grand Forks, a special education teacher when she is not at the Legislature, sponsored the bill because she believes that now that all schools must offer full-day kindergarten, all children should get kindergarten.
James Bartlett, executive director of the North Dakota Home School Association, said it would be a burden for North Dakotans who intend to home school their children to have to file the required “statement of intent” a year earlier.
“Many home educators do not want to begin formal academics at age 6 because research and home educating experience demonstrates that children forced into academics before their brains are physically read lose the love of learning,” he said.
But House Education Chairwoman Rep. Rae Ann Kelsch, R-Mandan, noted that the Legislature likely will pass House Bill 1171, which removes mandatory state supervision of home schoolers. The bill has passed the House and is being considered in the Senate.
Since they could file the intent letter at age 6 and then be free to start actual instruction under whatever schedule they think best, it should not be a burden, she said.
Leon Walter of Ray, testified in favor of the bill, saying, “I am very firmly in favor of kindergarten being mandated. A child who starts first grade without the benefits of kindergarten is truly starting behind.”
He has three young daughters, two of whom are not yet school age.
The committee took no immediate action. Kelsch said that’s in part because she wants the committee to hear a bill this morning that creates criminal penalties for parents who don’t send their children to school. That is Senate Bill 2217.