OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) – Washington is one of only two states that don’t require kids to start their formal educations before turning 8.
A measure gaining traction in the state Legislature would push that age to 6, but a loophole would exempt kids whose parents say they are homeschooled.
Rep. Marcie Maxwell, D-Renton, House Bill 1283’s sponsor, said her reason for introducing it is simple: Society has changed since the early 20th century, when the current rules were created, and our laws should reflect that.
“We know today how important early education is,” she said. “Kindergarten, first grade, second grade and beyond are a vital part of all students’ preparation.”
While 33 states require kids to start their education no later than age 6 and 15 states make it mandatory by age 7, only Washington and Pennsylvania don’t require kids in the classroom until they turn 8.
The measure was unanimously voted out of the House Education Committee on Thursday.
The measure has broad support, including from the state’s Board of Education, the Association of Washington School Principals and the Washington Education Association _ the state’s largest teachers’ union.
“We are working toward all-day kindergarten, and yet we have this archaic law on the books that doesn’t require families to send their kids to school until age 8,” said Connie Fletcher, a member of the state’s Board of Education. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
Despite widespread backing, however, it is not clear that the bill would do much to address what its supporters acknowledge is the rare occurrence of kids enrolling in school two years behind their peers.
That is because in order to calm fears of homeschooling advocates, the bill would keep current rules in place that don’t require parents to file paperwork declaring their intent to homeschool until their kids turn 8.
What, then, is to stop a parent who doesn’t want to enroll his or her 6- or 7-year old from claiming to be homeschooling?
“I suppose you could do that,” Maxwell said. “I would hope that everybody is looking out for the best interest of the child. I’d like to give parents the benefit of the doubt.”
Despite the concession to homeschoolers, some remain unhappy with the measure.
Emilie Fogle, chairwoman of the Washington Homeschool Organization, said that there is no evidence that kids starting school earlier helps them later in life. She fears that an exception made for homeschoolers could be ephemeral.
“An exemption puts us as a second group, and it can be taken away,” she said.
The measure also would alter the law dealing with 6- and 7-year olds enrolled in school but with frequent absences.
Under current state law, once 6- or 7-year-olds are enrolled in public school, parents are responsible for ensuring they attend class. If a child has seven unexcused absences in a month or 10 in a school year, the school district is required to file a case against the parents in juvenile court.
Under Maxwell’s bill, that statute would be removed from the state code, and truancy laws would be enforced starting at age 8.
The measure now goes to the House Rules Committee.
Follow AP Writer Jonathan Kaminsky at
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- The 5 worst things you could do for your roof
- 6 coolest things brewing in Arizona
- The virus that keeps head and neck cancers on the rise
- State Fair ‘Kid Reporter’ has all the angles covered
- 4 important things to know about timeshare maintenance fees
- Signs of delayed car crash injuries
- The truth about sports concussions
- The Alzheimer's epidemic: Facts you need to know
- The season is here, keep your Fantasy Football team strong all season
- 8 TV shows you can't miss this fall
- Football is here: 6 tips to make this your best season ever
- Gameday recipes and beers to match
- 6 reasons the Cardinals are driven to win the Super Bowl
- The Pac-12 football season nears kickoff
- Tips to get ready for a pain-free golf season
- Protect your family with these 7 home security features
- How to train like an Olympic swimmer
- 2016 Olympics: A guide to must-see TV events
- The bride's guide to feeling your best on your wedding day
- Deciding when you need knee surgery
- Celebrating Fourth of July is much cooler in these AZ towns
- Top ten road trip bathrooms in America
- Six things causing a pain in your neck
- 5 things to make your summer move easier
- Three elements of a strong timeshare exit guarantee
- Stretches and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome
- The best Major League ballparks have their own personality
- Comparing the best regular seasons: The '96 Bulls and '16 Warriors
- 3 Arizona road trips and the vehicles to get you there
- Colon cancer is preventable. Check these signs and symptoms to stay healthy.