Proposal to lower the compulsory education age from 7 to 6 passes Senate
SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Kimberly A. Lightford's (D-Maywood) plan to require all children to start school at age 6 has cleared the Senate and now goes to the Illinois House.
"Second grade is too late to start school," Lightford said. "How can a child who doesn't even start school until she turns 7 ever catch up on her reading and math skills?"
Lightford's proposal (Senate Bill 1307) lowers Illinois' compulsory education age from 7 to 6 – a move strongly supported by Illinois teachers.
Illinois is one of 14 states that do not require children to attend school until they turn 7. Two other states start at the age of 8. However, most states require children to go to school starting at age 5 or 6.
According to a Chicago Tribune report, nearly 18 percent of Chicago kindergartners and first-graders were chronic truants during the 2010-11 school year, missing nine or more days without a valid excuse.
Under Illinois law, child truants do not face any penalties – their parents do. A parent who doesn't make every effort to make sure their children are at school can face up to 30 days in jail or a $1,500 fine, though the courts rarely impose such severe penalties.
"We owe it to the children to pass this law," Lightford said. "As a society, we decided children deserve an education when we passed the first compulsory education law. We should make sure they get it.
"Parents can choose public school, private school, religious school, charter school or home school. The only thing they can't choose is to deprive their children of the opportunity to get the education they need to qualify for a good job later in life."