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Gadsden Times: Keep first-grade decision with parents

Staff Report
Alabama Political Reporter

Good intentions and bipartisan support don’t always translate into good legislation. We think that’s the case with a push to lower the mandatory age for Alabama children to start the first grade from 7 to 6.

Rep. John Merrill, R-Tuscaloosa, and Sen. Priscilla Dunn, D-Bessemer, have prefiled bills for the 2012 legislative session to make that change. Merrill last year introduced a similar bill that passed the House but died in the Senate.

The bills also would change the birthday cutoff date for children to start either kindergarten or first grade from Sept. 1 to Aug. 1.

Merrill said the bills will help about 50 children a year who currently don’t start school until they are well past 7 years old, sometimes closer to 8. He said some of them have never attended kindergarten and find themselves well behind their peers, and potentially on the track to failure.

The idea has drawn broad support from the child advocacy, education and business communities — it’s even got the Business Council of Alabama and the Alabama Education Association on the same page.

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