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June 15, 2007

Senate Bill 392: Compulsory Attendance Lowered to Six

Author:
Senator Devlin and Senator Walker

Summary:
As many of you have been following over the past few months, there was a bill in the Oregon Legislature that would lower the compulsory school attendance age from 7 to 6. This bill passed the House Education Committee but was defeated on the floor by a vote of 32 to 23.

If passed, Senate Bill 392 would increase the state’s control over when a child is required to be in school. Many children are not ready for formal education at age 6. Senate Bill 392 will prevent parents from deciding whether it is in their children’s best interest to wait until they are 7 to begin schooling.

While Representative John Dallum, a homeschool-friendly legislator, was able to attach an amendment that would require the Department of Education to establish procedures to allow a 6-year-old to opt out until age 7, this is not good enough.

The House brought the bill to the floor for a vote on June 11 but the bill failed to pass. After the bill was defeated Representative Arnie Roblan from the 9th District changed his vote from yes to no and requested a reconsideration of the bill. This is a tactic used to try to save a bill from defeat.

On Wednesday the House voted 32 to 26 to reconsider Senate Bill 392 and sent the bill to the Committee on Elections, Ethics and Rules. The Committee could try to amend the bill and bring it to the floor again. We will continue to monitor this bill closely.

Senate Bill 392 still gives the state the control over when a 6-year-old must attend school. The Department of Education has already stated that their goal is to force younger children into school as they believe early education is necessary for all children. There is a concerted effort across the country to require 5- and even 4-year-olds to attend school even though the majority of research demonstrates that any gain is short-lived, and that beginning school early may increase in negative social behavior.

Status:

1/15/2007 (Senate) Introduction and first reading. Referred to President's desk.
1/15/2007 (Senate) Referred to Education and General Government.
1/30/2007 (Senate) Public Hearing held in Education and General Government Committee.
2/6/2007 (Senate) Committee work session held, bill passed 4-1.
3/12/2007 (Senate) Held over by unanimous consent since 3/05/07*
5/3/2007 Third reading. Passed 19 to 8.
3/13/2007 (House) Assigned to Subcommittee on Education Innovation
5/16/2007 (House) Work session held passed
5/17/2007 (House) Sent to full House
6/4/2007 (House) Carried over to future sessions
6/11/2007 (House) Third reading. Carried by Komp. Failed. Ayes, 22; nays, 33--Barker, Berger, Boone, Boquist, Bruun, Burley, Cameron, Cowan, Dallum, Edwards D., Esquivel, Flores, Garrard, Gelser, Gilliam, Gilman, Girod, Hanna, Jenson, Krieger, Krummel, Lim, Maurer, Nelson, Olson, Read, Richardson, Roblan, Schaufler, Scott, Smith G., Smith P., Whisnant; excused, 4—Butler, Cannon, Morgan, Thatcher; excused for business of the House, 1—Minnis. Rep. Roblan changed his vote.
6/13/2007 (House) Motion to refer to elections, ethics and rules carried. Referred. Ayes, 32; nays, 24

*This means that a vote on the bill has been delayed and passed over to the next day the legislature is in session.

HSLDA's Position:
Opposed.

Action Requested:
There is no action requested at this time.

Background:

As mentioned in earlier e-lerts, Senate Bill 392 would require all children to be in school once they turn 6 years old. This would mean that parents would have to submit their homeschool notice to their local Education Service District (ESD) a year earlier. Additionally, since the Oregon Administrative Rules require homeschool parents to test their children in the 3rd, 5th, 8th, and 10th year a child has been in school, if the compulsory attendance age is lowered, you might have begin testing your children a year earlier then you have to now.

Some of the problems with lowering the compulsory attendance are listed below.

  • Lowering the compulsory attendance age from 7 to 6 would subject Oregon home educators to the requirements of the homeschool laws one year earlier. Homeschool parents would be required to submit the notice of intent to their local ESD one year earlier than they do now.
  • Additionally, the Oregon Department of Education could possibly change the definition of when the “first year” begins for testing purposes from 7 on September 1 to 6 on September 1, effectively requiring parents to test in grades 3, 5, 8, and 10 a year earlier than they do now.
  • Many education experts have concluded that beginning a child’s formal education too early may actually result in burnout and poor scholastic performance later.
  • Lowering the compulsory attendance age erodes the authority of parents who are in the best position to determine when their child’s formal education should begin.
  • It would restrict parents’ freedom to decide if their children are ready for school.
  • Another significant impact of expanding the compulsory attendance age would be an inevitable tax increase to pay for more classroom space and teachers to accommodate the additional students compelled to attend public schools.

For more information on compulsory attendance, please see our memorandum, “Mandatory Kindergarten Is Unnecessary.”

The Education and General Government Committee held a public hearing on the bill on January 30. If you are interested in listening to the discussion click here (requires RealPlayer. The discussion on Senate Bill 392 covers the first 50 minutes. To listen to the work session on Senate Bill 392 click here. The Senate Bill 392 discussion starts 48 minutes into the meeting and lasts 15 minutes.

According to the Oregon Department of Education the main purpose of the legislation is to enable schools to be able to take action when parents enroll their children in the public school and then treat their child’s attendance as voluntary, taking them to school whenever they please. This is disruptive to the school and the affected class and students.

However, there are better ways to handle this problem and several other states have enacted legislation to deal with this problem. Minnesota has a compulsory attendance age of 7 and has dealt with this problem with a provision that states: Once a pupil under the age of 7 is enrolled in kindergarten or a higher grade in a public school, the pupil is subject to the compulsory attendance provisions. This has the effect the public school system needs but protects parents from having to enroll their children in a school setting before they are ready for school.

 Other Resources

January-29-2007—Oregon—Calls Needed Immediately to Stop Reporting for 6-year-olds!

February-5-2007—Oregon—More Calls Needed on Bill That Lowers School Age to 6

February-9-2007—Oregon—Update on Bill That Lowers School Age to 6

April-30-2007—Oregon—Calls Needed on Bill That Lowers School Age to 6

May-2-2007—Oregon—Calls Needed to Defeat Bill That Lowers School Age to 6

May-9-2007—Oregon—Calls Needed to Oppose Expanded Control Over Children

May-17-2007—Oregon—Calls Urgently Needed to Stop Lowering School Attendance Age

Bill Text  ( requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Bill History

Committee Hearing (Requires RealPlayer)