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.)
- 7 common ways to get sued by your employees
- Why it might be time to upgrade your toilet
- Arizona teachers are building a better future by using technology in the classroom
- How to make summer reading fun for the whole family
- How to find relief for chronic joint pain
- Can the NBA Lottery save the Suns?
- Skip Urgent Care: 5 ailments you can treat with telemedicine
- Skin Cancer in Arizona: Stats, facts and new immunotherapy drugs making strides
- Distracted walking injuries end up not so funny
- Scary situations: 5 quick tips before you let a contractor in your home
- Four ways telemedicine is changing the health care industry
- 5 mistakes homeowners make in the spring
- Three rivers run through it: Exploring Arizona's waterways
- Smart home basics: things you need to know to get started
- 5 Surprising things causing back pain
- Arizona agriculture is a $17.1B industry
- Timeline: Arizona's roots in brewing history
- 5 reasons to love the D-backs this season
- Tips for taking your home entertainment experience to the backyard
- Tech-related injuries your parents never experienced
- Workers comp: Signs your co-worker could be a fraud
- Who's the real founder of America's pastime?
- Epidemic rising? What you need to know about Alzheimer's in Arizona
- 5 unforgettable Wooden Award winners
- Family and hard work are keys to success of modern dairy farmers
- Genetic testing could hold answers for colon cancer survival
- Cold beers and baseball: A beer lover's guide to Spring Training
- Telecommuting: 5 tips to make it work for employers and employees
- See how top CFOs feel about economic growth in the Valley
- Migraine myths that keep patients from effective treatments