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An Open Letter to the Michigan State Legislature

Dear Michigan legislators:

I am a Westland resident, and I am writing to you today on behalf of my daughter, who will be five years old, this November. Our local school system has always observed a December 1 birthday cutoff date for school enrollment, so today, we attended her Kindergarten Round-up. While there, we were informed that Senate Bill 315-316 and House Bill 4513, currently under consideration, would, if passed, mandate a change in the cutoff from December 1 to September 1, rendering her ineligible for kindergarten this year, because of her November birthday.

My Kate is a highly intelligent, very advanced child. She has known all her letters for two years. I am not sure exactly how high she can count, but I know that it is WAY past the 20 that is currently recommended for children starting kindergarten (I've heard her count to at least twice that). She regularly (and correctly) uses words such as “misspoke”, “demonstrate”, and “apparently”. This past January, she successfully read her first book (“The Foot Book” by Dr. Seuss) all by herself, and regularly reads words off of signs when we ride in the car. She is an energetic and strong-willed, but very cooperative child, who plays well with others in her preschool, which she attends all day, two days each week, and at her Saturday morning karate class for children 3-5. She has been very excited about attending kindergarten in the fall, for months – to her, “getting” to go to school all day, five days a week is a thrilling prospect. I know that she is ready for kindergarten. Her preschool instructors agree that she is VERY ready. The kindergarten teacher that ran activities for the prospective kindergarteners for 40 to 45 minutes at the Round-up, while the parents viewed a presentation, could tell even in that short amount of time that she's ready. Now, I may find myself in the position of having to tell my daughter that a bunch of grown ups who have never met her might change the rules so that she can't go, this year, because they think she's not ready, because she has the wrong birthday. The old saying “Strike while the iron is hot” applies to my daughter, here. All of her irons are hot – academic, emotional, social, and attitude. She is poised, ready, and eager, and I am concerned about having her stagnate academically for a year. I am a strong proponent of public schools, and am hoping that a private school will not be our only recourse.

While I understand that this legislation was brought about in relation to concerns about the mandatory offering of full-day kindergarten by public schools, and that many, perhaps even most, children born between September and December may not be ready, this is not the case for my Kate, and many like her. I would never advocate promoting a child to a grade to which he or she is not ready, but likewise, I cannot advocate holding back a child who is ready. I would urge you, if possible, to see a provision added that would allow children born after September 1 to be able to enroll if they pass an appropriate readiness assessment. I would happily take my child for such an assessment, if it will let her get the start on school that she so desperately wants. Furthermore, I must say that changing such a rule in April, during or even after most kindergarten registrations, to be in effect in September, is terrible timing. If the measure must pass, and a provision cannot be added, could it at least be delayed so that it takes place next year, rather than leaving so many families hanging, in relation to academic planning for their children?

Thank you for your time.

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