New Illinois Law Lowers Age Required to Start School

A new Illinois state law passed this week is requiring children to start attending school at a younger age.

Previously, children were not required to begin schooling until age 7.  The new law, which goes into effect for the 2014-2015 school year, lowers that to age 6, which is closer in line with other states’ age requirements.

According to the state’s early learning website, children are not required to attend kindergarten.  Illinois requires that the grade be offered, but children do not have to attend prior to enrolling in first grade.

Children can enroll in kindergarten in the state so long as they are five years of age prior to September 1 of the current school year. Those who back the law say children who start school at a later age are falling behind their peers.

Others worry about the added cost that the extra students will bring.

“This will cost the state more money because you’ll have more kids at a younger age in school. We are having a hard time right now paying for the education that we already have,” Okawville Republican Sen. David Luechtefeld said.

According to the Illinois state Board of Education, the exact amount of extra funding needed is difficult to estimate, depending on how many more children will be starting school, and the income levels of their families.  The board believes this will really only affect larger school districts.

Lura Ottolini, a preschool teacher in Herrin, Illinois, supports the new law, calling young children “sponges” who should be starting school as early as possible, according to Giacomo Luca for KFVS News.

“I don’t think they should start any later [than 7], Ottolini said.  “Because they’re ready, especially if they’ve been to preschool and I think every child should go to preschool … I think preschool should maybe even be a requirement.”

Other new laws were also passed this week in the state.

High school students are now required to take CPR and learn to use an AED heart defibrillator.  George Laman, a paramedic and fire fighter, pushed for this law as a result of his daughter, who had a heart condition, passing away at a drill team practice in 2008.  An AED was available for use, but not used until paramedics arrived 13 minutes after 9-1-1 was called. A coach and certified athletic trainer were also on hand, but no action was taken.

Another law requires youth ages 18-21 to pass a six-hour driver’s education course in order to obtain a license.  Previously an education course was not required.  The course can be taken online, with no actual time behind the wheel required.

School personnel must now pass training on how to report child abuse.  Also, more early childhood education funding is in the works.