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House Bill 201: Makes Kindergarten Mandatory
Representative Steve Harshman (R), House District 37
House Bill 201 would make kindergarten compulsory in Wyoming. Thus, although homeschoolers do not now have to file any paperwork before their child turns seven, HB 201 would add roughly two more years of compelled attendance.
This bill was introduced to the House on January 22, 2003, and assigned to the House Education Committee. It passed the committee on February 5, 2003, but was voted down on the House floor (35-23)
HSLDA sources at the Wyoming Department of Education indicated that the purpose of this bill is to keep families from enrolling their children in public school kindergarten and then pulling them out again. Senator Coe, who chairs the Senate Education Committee and is a co-sponsor of this bill, has no desire to hurt homeschoolers. Unfortunately, the bill as currently written would affect homeschool families.
By and large the sponsors of H.B. 201 are friendly to homeschoolers. Senator Sessions, who is a co-sponsor, is the exception. The intent of the bill is to solve one small problem, but the effect of the bill is to imply that homeschoolers must submit documentation of a kindergarten program well before their child reaches the compulsory attendance age of 7. In other states, homeschoolers who file their initial paperwork for a first (or even second) grade program have been told that they must file a kindergarten program instead. The language of H.B. 201 as it stands would tend to produce this absurd result.
The Department of Education has calculated how many Wyoming students are currently staying out of kindergarten. In 1994, 6,930 attended kindergarten. The next year, 7,104 went into first grade. This means that 174 children skipped kindergarten the previous year. Over the years, the number of children who skipped public school kindergarten has declined. In 1997, there were only 107 children did not to attend public kindergarten who attended first grade the next year. In 2000, there were only 38 such children. In 2001, the most recent year for which numbers are available, only 33 children attended first grade who had not attended kindergarten the year before. Thus, H.B. 201 is will not really force large numbers of children into public school kindergarten.
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Mandatory Kindergarten Is Unnecessary
Compelling children to attend school at an earlier age does not yield consistent results.