Yasmeen Khan is a reporter covering education. You can find her stories on the air and on SchoolBook.org, WNYC’s education website.
Legislation that would compel New York City schools to make kindergarten seats available to 5-year-olds is now wending its way through the State Legislature, awaiting action by the education committees of the Assembly and the Senate.
On Thursday, the City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn; Councilman Robert Jackson, chairman of the education committee; and Councilman Stephen T. Levin issued a joint statement calling on lawmakers to swiftly pass the bills.
The legislation calls for children who are 5 years old on or before Dec. 1 to attend kindergarten, and the city's Education Department would be compelled to ensure that these students have a spot in a class in their district. Parents, however, can opt not to enroll their 5-year-old, and students who are homeschooled or enrolled in private schools would be exempt from the requirement.
New York law now requires that children attend school by the age of 6. While most children go to school sooner, lawmakers estimate that the legislation would apply to about 2,500 children who do not attend kindergarten each year in New York City.
The full text of the bill, with its attached legislative memo, makes an argument for sending children to school at a younger age, saying that those students are more likely to graduate from high school, find a job and stay out of jail.
The push for mandatory kindergarten comes from Ms. Quinn, who made the issue a highlight of her State of the City address earlier this year.
The bill does have financial implications: it could cost the city $30 million per year.