Bill allows Buffalo schools to require kindergarten attendance

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Governor Andrew Cuomo signed two bills Wednesday, allowing the Buffalo and Utica School Boards to require kindergarten attendance of children beginning at 5-years-old. Current law does not require attendance until 6-years-old.

Both Utica and Buffalo anticipate implementing mandatory 5-year-old kindergarten for the upcoming 2014-15 school year.

Phil Rumore, president of the Buffalo Teachers Federation, said, “Mandatory kindergarten is something we’ve been fighting for for many years. It’s absolutely critically important when you realize that the absenteeism is so great because parents don’t feel like they have to send their kids and that’s a critical grade.”

“You’d be surprised how ill-prepared our children come to school. It’s not that the parents don’t want to; sometimes there are two parents working two jobs and they don’t have the time to spend with the kids that they really need to so we have to pick up the slack,” Rumore added.

The requirement does not apply to students who attend private schools or are home-schooled.

The school district says the earlier children go to school, the earlier parents need to prepare them for the classroom. Here is a list of what each child should know when entering school.

The Buffalo Schools released a statement Wednesday, saying:

“The members of the Buffalo Board of Education, Senator Mark Grisanti, Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, and Governor Andrew Cuomo are all to be commended for their commitment to early childhood education. Research shows that success in school and in later life is largely determined much earlier than was previously assumed. This bill establishes the expectation for earlier access to education that is of high quality.

“Over time, we expect a heightened interest in pre-kindergarten programs as well as a result of this legislation. The district must prepare for the possibility of new classrooms for that level of instruction as well.

“Since a parent remains a child’s most important and first teacher, our expectation is that parents will also realize to an even greater extent the critical role they play in preparing children earlier for formal instruction. This means reading to and with children earlier and making sure they possess basic literacy and speaking skills prior to entering school.

“In recognition of this, the Buffalo Public Schools website provides information about what young children should know at each early grade level, along with numerous parent resources. The mastery of these skills is the first step on a path to college and careers.”

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