ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) — At the beginning of this legislative session in March Governor Kay Ivey called on state lawmakers to make kindergarten mandatory.  

In response, House Democrats proposed instead to make abilities for first grade a priority. 

In April the Alabama House Education Policy Committee approved the “First Grade Readiness” bill, and not the “Mandatory Kindergarten” bill. As of 2020, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, 19 states require kindergarten.  

Now, if parents are going to have their children enter grade one it’s mandatory that they show that their child can perform. Educators in North Alabama schools say they are already expanding early education  

“The one thing that we’ve done here in Limestone County is to make sure that we expand our pre-k program because a lot of students need to be in school early on,” Limestone Schools Superintendent Randy Shearhouse said.  

Amy Williams, principal at FAME Academy at Brookhill Elementary in Athens told News 19 that they assess pre-k children to see if they are developmentally ready to move on to the first grade. 

“What we see very often is that very young children do develop at different rates as they should,” Williams explained. “What we are trying to see are the children who are falling well below the developmental arc. We need to back up and say what do we do to get them ready.” 

A portion of the bill would allow local school districts to allow four-year-olds who turn five by the end of December to attend school and five-year-olds who turn six by the end of the calendar year to attend first grade. Ms. Williams at fame academy says it’s much more than just academic readiness. 

“A lot of children with July and August birthdays don’t have the emotional development to learn in the same way as their peers,” Williams said. “That could be in kindergarten, or it may show up in middle school when their kids are maturing, and other kids are maturing and worried about girls and boys and all of that and they are not ready for that.” 

Governor Ivey responded to the bill by saying that it’s “past time we require our students to complete kindergarten.”

The bill now moves from the House Education Policy Committee to the full House of Representatives.