Cuomo Signs Bill For Mandatory Kindergarten in Buffalo, Utica

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law this week making kindergarten attendance in Buffalo mandatory.  Advocates of the law report that earlier learning leads to higher high school graduation rates.

“Early education can be one of the most important factors in a student’s long-term development – and ensuring that all children in the Buffalo city school districts attend kindergarten is a great way to unlock their future potential,’’ Cuomo said in a statement provided to The Buffalo News.

The law no longer allows for parents to keep their 5-year-olds home for that extra year, or in a day care or head start program.  Kindergarteners must attend the city’s public school program, writes Tom Precious for The News.

Currently, children may stay home until age 6.

According to Will Keresztes, Buffalo School Chief of Student Support, the district is expecting higher pre-kindergarten attendance rates as well.

“Over time, we expect a heightened interest in pre-kindergarten programs as well as a result of this legislation. The district must prepare for the possibility of new classrooms for that level of instruction as well,” Keresztes said.

Kindergarten has become an important time for learning in a young child’s life.  According to many teachers, children who do not attend kindergarten through the public school program often times find themselves struggling to keep up in first grade.

 “We have to front-load education when children are young, curious and engaged, and that means making sure children attend kindergarten,’’ John Licata, who recently left as a member of the Buffalo Board of Education, said when the measure passed last month. He was a driving force behind getting the measure on Albany’s radar screen.

Because kindergarten will no longer be viewed as optional, absentee rates are expected to drop next year.  Buffalo currently has an average of 43% of kindergarteners being chronically absent.

The new law expects to expand the public school system by about 600 kindergarteners this fall.

The action will also affect kindergarteners in Utica, reports Anna Meiler for WKTV.

“What it will do is require any 5-year-old in the city of Utica to attend kindergarten if they were born before December of that year,” said Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi who supported the bill.

The parents of children who do not turn five until after the start of the new school year do have the option to keep their children home an extra year.

“Some parents choose that their child may not be ready for kindergarten at four years old. They want to keep them home for that additional year. This still allows them to do that, but once they turn six years old they cannot bypass kindergarten. They have to go to Kindergarten before they can enter into the first grade,” he said.

Required kindergarten attendance by 5-year-olds is already in place in Rochester, Syracuse, and New York City.

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