The people's voice of reason

State will force first graders to have attended kindergarten

On Thursday, controversial legislation passed the Alabama legislature to attend kindergarten prior to being allowed to enter first grade.

House Bill 113 (HB 113) is sponsored by State Representative Pebblin Warren (D-Tuskegee). It was carried in the Senate by State Senator Donnie Chesteen (R-Dothan). HB113 would require that students either finish kindergarten to enter the first grade or pass a skills test that indicates that the child is competent in kindergarten level skills.

Graduates of private or church run kindergarten programs would also be eligible to enter the first grade like their public school kindergarten peers.

Sponsors argue that since the state is going to begin holding back third graders who are not reading at third grade level now that they are fully implementing the controversial Alabama Literacy Act students shouldn't be entering first grade without having been exposed to kindergarten materials.

"We need to do everything we can for these children early to give them a good foundation, so that they're not coming into first grade already behind," said Sen. Donnie Chesteen

The bill passed the Senate 35 to 0.

The House concurred with the Senate changes to the bill.

Members praised Rep. Warren for her efforts leading this push over the last several years. It had passed the House the last four years, but the bill ran into opposition in the Senate until this year.

Warren is presently hospitalized due to the debilitating effects of long COVID.

Most states do not require students to attend kindergarten before they go to first grade, .

Warren, who is currently in the hospital, said in a phone interview Wednesday that she was happy that it had advanced after seven years.

Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) amended the bill so that it will not take effect until the 2026-2027 school year. Parents are still legally within their rights to enroll their six-year-old in first grade, even if they have not attended kindergarten.

Six-year-olds entering the first grade in the 2025-26 school year will have to take assessment testing at the start of the school year and then again at the start of their second semester to determine if they have any deficiencies that need to be corrected so resources can be assigned to those poor performing children.

The legislation is now on the governor's desk for her signature. It was part of Governor Kay Ivey's (R) 2024 legislative agenda so she is expected to sign it.

Thursday was the last day of the 2024 Alabama regular legislative session.

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