Giving youngsters some extra time

By District 13 State Sen. Greg McCortney

This past week we hit the Feb. 28 deadline for Senate committees to vote on legislation that was introduced in this chamber.

Last week alone, I presented nearly two-dozen bills in various committees that I authored this session.

Some of the legislation I carry might come from a state agency needing to get the law updated to reflect changes in how they administer their programs or to mirror changes at the federal level.

Sometimes an organization, like a local chamber of commerce or an advocacy group, like one supporting the elderly or children, might make a request. Sometimes a bill is the result of a concern shared by a fellow citizen.

When I was first running for the Senate, I had a kindergarten teacher make a request for legislation.

She simply wanted to change the age for when children can attend kindergarten in Oklahoma. Her concern was that far too many children who were simply not mature enough to start kindergarten due to later birthdays were being enrolled anyway.

The problem is, if they start out behind, they tend to stay behind and it can snowball. They can ultimately wind up at higher risk to drop out of school altogether.

On the other hand, numerous studies have shown that kids who are given an extra year to mature are far more likely to succeed.

Furthermore, it should be pointed out that kindergarten teachers may have well over 20 or 25 students or even more in their classroom.

A teacher who must to constantly deal with a child who may simply be too young to be in that classroom is being forced to divert attention from the instruction of all the other students his or her charge.

Right now, the state of Oklahoma says a child must have turned five years old by Sept. 1 of the school year they’re to start kindergarten in order to be able to attend.

Senate Bill 11 simply moves that to Aug. 1. It also moves the age deadline for pre-kindergarten to be for children who are at least four years old but no older than five by Aug. 1.

When I was presenting this bill in committee on Monday, two other senators who had family members who were early childhood education specialists shared that their relatives whole-heartedly favored moving back the age cut-off from September to August.

I’ve heard from educators across the state who believe this is a common sense approach that will help more children have a better start to school, giving them a stronger foundation for success throughout their lives.

I can also speak from first-hand experience. My wife and I made the decision to give one of our children a little more time to mature and I firmly believe it was the best thing we could have done to help them succeed in school.

I look forward to more opportunities to take the ideas of the people in our area and try to implement them at the Capitol.

I am honored to serve you in the Oklahoma State Senate. If you have a question about a legislative matter, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (405) 521-5541 or by email at mccortney@oksenate.gov.

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