INDIANAPOLIS — For months, Benjamin Edwards fought to get his daughter into kindergarten.
With her birthday falling on Aug. 2, just one day after the Aug. 1 cutoff in Indiana, Edwards' daughter was not allowed to attend kindergarten for the 2018-19 school year.
Governor Eric Holcomb signed into law House Enrolled Act 1001 in March of 2018. The law said students must be five years old on or before Aug. 1 to start kindergarten. School districts were allowed to give waivers for students who did not meet the age requirement to attend kindergarten, but faced a funding penalty of $6,000 per student for doing so. Many schools opted not to take the funding hit.
While Edwards was unable to get his daughter into kindergarten in 2018, many other families with children starting school this year will not face the same issues.
In the 2019-20 school year, the cutoff date has been moved to Sept. 1, meaning students wishing to attend kindergarten must turn 5 years old on or before that date. A child must turn 4 on or before Sept. 1 to attend pre-K in many schools.
This is welcome news, but too late for Edwards. Still, he’s happy other families could benefit from the change.
“It’s a very positive thing for parents here,” Edwards said. “I wasn’t just speaking for my daughter in those school board meetings. I was being the voice for all parents out there that weren’t willing to come forward and didn’t have the voice to come forward and speak their concerns about the date change.”
A year ago, a handful of schools decided to accept students who turned 5 after Aug. 1, taking a loss of $6,000 in state funding per student accepted. But this year’s change is in the opposite direction, meaning more students will be able to get into kindergarten.
Another change is coming next year. The cutoff date is moving to Oct. 1 in 2020.
Edwards has another child, but he was born in January, so the kindergarten eligibility date shouldn’t affect him. But he will likely have to go through pre-K twice. But Edwards doesn’t mind that much.
“Early education is key in helping your children shape into what they’re going to be in the future,” he said.
Exactly how much impact Edwards had in the 2019 date change is unclear. He did contact state legislators, who eventually made the changes into the budget passed this session.
“I’m glad they finally did something,” Edwards said. “I hope my daughter’s story did something.”
DeJuan Foster, a father who lives on Indianapolis’ east side, was hoping for even more of a change to the law so his 3-year-old daughter could get into pre-K.
Now she will have to wait until 2020 to start pre-K.
He would like to see the date pushed back even further – to the end of the calendar year.
“In terms of development, it’s not that far off,” he said.