S.D. Senate shoots down kindergarten-eligibility change that House had passed

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The opposition ran sort-of silent but very deep Monday against changing South Dakota’s date that children have to be at least age 5 to enroll in kindergarten.

A majority of state senators sided with state Education Secretary Ben Jones and killed HB 1174.

The roll call was 11 for and 24 against moving the date to August 1 from September 1. The change would have happened in 2021.

The House had approved it 62-7 last month after the prime sponsor, Republican Representative Roger Chase of Huron, added the 2021 amendment.

The Senate debate saw three supporters speak, followed by three opponents.

“It won’t affect families this year,” said Senator Kyle Schoenfish, a Scotland Republican.

Senator V.J. Smith, a Brookings Republican, said the 2019 and 2018 South Dakota teachers of the year supported the change.

Senator Jim Bolin, a Canton Republican, recalled the years when South Dakota voters required schools to start classes the day after Labor Day, but they now generally start in August.

Senator Wayne Steinhauer, a Hartford Republican, led the argument against it. Steinhauer said South Dakota needs to assess all students for their readiness to start kindergarten.

He also noted the $4 million savings the first year would become an $8 million problem the second year when “thirteen-twelfths” of the next class enrolls, for a 16 percent swing.

Senator Blake Curd, a Sioux Falls Republican, said 800 to 1,000 families would be affected. Curd said families already can hold their children back.

Senator Jessica Castleberry, a Rapid City Republican, said she has owned a preschool for the past decade and recommended to only one family that their child wasn’t ready for kindergarten.

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