Oklahoma bill would change cutoff date for Pre-K, kindergarten enrollment

OKLAHOMA CITY - At the Oklahoma State Capitol, there's a push to change when children can be enrolled in Pre-K or kindergarten.

Right now, a child must turn 4 years old  before September 1 to enter Pre-K. For kindergarten, children must turn 5 years old before Sept. 1.

However, Senate Bill 11 would change that cutoff date to July 1.

Sen. Greg McCortney said his goal is to give children more time to mature or be fully potty trained before going to school. He believes changing the cutoff date to July 1 will make a big difference.

“Now, the youngest kids in the class are still going to be a little more mature than they would in the current system,” McCortney said.

McCortney said he's heard from many Pre-K teachers in his hometown of Ada who feel like they work at a daycare instead of a school. He wants to change that, which is why he filed Senate Bill 11.

“My biggest goal is to make sure that our kids have the best chance possible to succeed and, right now, we've got kids entering schools that aren't ready to learn,” he said.

Shawn Hime, the executive director of the State School Board Association, said they want to look into whether a couple of months would make a difference.

“All children mature at different rates," Hime said. “I don't know if it’s just about birth date."

Hime made the decision for his own kids to be held back when they were in school, and he hopes the bill won't prevent other parents from being able to do the same.

“This won’t change a parent's ability to hold their kids back at all,” McCortney said. “So, if you don't think your kid is ready, then you can hold your kids back."

However, the bill would affect a school's enrollment, shrinking the first-year class size.

Sen. Allison Ikley-Freeman has some concerns about the proposed measure.

"I do not oppose this bill, but I do question its timing, with Oklahoma having the highest rates of child trauma in the nation. Without schools, we lack the resources to safeguard our children," Ikley-Freeman told News 4 in a statement.

However, McCortney believes it will improve Oklahoma’s schools.

“It won’t solve all of the problems, but it will make it better,” he said.

The only cost to the state would be for the computer system upgrade, which would be approximately $5,000.