Kindergarten Changes in NYS – Part 1

In New York City (NYC) and in Rochester, there are changes in the offing for 2013-14.

The mainstream media largely oversimplified, reporting the change as “kindergarten is going to be mandatory”. The truth is more complex (and at least in NYC, the change also affects compulsory school age for some kids with December birthdays who were born in 2008 or later).

Let’s start with state law, and then we’ll look at the resulting changes to the NYC Chancellor’s Regulations (we can’t look at Rochester’s implementation of the change in state law because we haven’t been able to track that down yet). 

The bill about NYC that was signed by the governor on July 18, 2012, and that will go into effect in 2013-14 (which technically begins on July 1, 2013) is called S07015 (“S” is for Senate). It can be seen at this link (if you want to see it there, be sure to put “2011-12” in the year box and a check in the “TEXT” checkbox):

http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/ 

To summarize what’s in this bill, Section 1 says that New York State Education Law is amended to read:

    c. The board of education of the Syracuse city school district AND THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK [is] ARE hereby authorized to require minors who are five years of age on or before December first to attend kindergarten instruction. However, the provisions of this paragraph shall not apply to:

    (i) Minors whose parents elect not to enroll their children in school until the following September.

   (ii) Students enrolled in non-public schools or in home instruction.

Hints:

  • The long phrase that’s in capital letters is written that way to show that it’s being inserted. There are brackets around the word “is” to show that it’s being deleted.
  • The part about Syracuse was in an old bill that dates back about 25 years.
  • The awkward phrase “THE CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK” results from the fact that education law tends to refer to “city school districts”, but NYC is made up of a bunch of city school districts that act as a unit. 

Section 2 of the bill says that it will go into effect in 2013-14. 

Rochester has had its own bill passed (like NYC’s, it was signed by the governor on July 18, 2012), and you can find it by going to the same link as above, but putting in “S07519”. 

We were going to give you the link to the updated law itself because it includes Syracuse, NYC and Rochester all in one place. But at posting time, that link isn’t operational enough for us to cite it here. (Thank you, New York State – maybe the link goes down on weekends for scheduled, yet unannounced, maintenance?) 

Now we’ll quote the way NYC implemented the change in law, when it amended its Chancellor’s Regulations on December 21, 2012.

The bit that most directly concerns NYC homeschoolers starts at I-A-3, but it needs to be read in context. So we’re going to give you the wording beginning with the Abstract. (If you want to access this online yourself, you can go to the NYC DOE’s website at www.schools.nyc.gov and click on “Rules and Policies”, then “Chancellor’s Regulations”, and then “A-101”, which is the section of the Regulations titled “Admissions, Readmissions, Transfers, and List Notices for All Students”.)

Here it is (we’re skipping past the “Summary of Changes”):

ABSTRACT

This regulation supersedes Chancellor’s Regulation A-101 dated March 2, 2012. It sets forth the policies concerning admission, discharge, and transfer of pupils in New York City public schools.

I. INTRODUCTION

The Office of Student Enrollment (Student Enrollment) maintains sole authority and responsibility for enrollment policy and enrollment planning for all schools except those in District 75 and District 79. The Superintendents for those districts maintain responsibility for enrollment operations and policy in those districts.

A. Admission to School – General Policies and Procedures

1. Children may not be refused admission to a public school because of race, color, creed, national origin, gender, gender identity, pregnancy, immigration/citizenship status, disability, sexual orientation, religion, or ethnicity.1

2. Children whose fourth birthday falls within the calendar year of admission are to be admitted to pre-kindergarten (limited to designated schools and subject to available seats).

3. Children whose fifth birthday falls within the calendar year of admission are required to attend and must be admitted to kindergarten, commencing in the 2013-14 school year, whether these children are entering school for the first time or being transferred from another school, except that such children are not required to attend kindergarten if:

a. their parents elect instead to enroll them in first grade the following academic year, or

b. they are enrolled in non-public schools or in home instruction.

4. Children whose sixth birthday falls within the calendar year of admission must be admitted to the first grade.

5. Children are required to attend school from age five, except in cases of 3(a) or 3(b) above, commencing in the 2013-14 school year. Until the 2013-14 school year, children are required to attend school from age six. […]

Skipping ahead to II-E-1 (II is titled “Admissions Procedures”), we find another relevant tidbit, which reads:

E. Policies for Zoned Elementary and Middle Schools

1. Kindergarten is the entry grade to New York City Public Schools. Students must turn 5 by December 31 of a school year in order to be eligible to begin Kindergarten in that academic year.

The differences you may have noticed between the state law and the NYC regulations are:

  • NYS says that the first exception is for those whose parents “elect not to enroll their children in school until the following September”, but NYC says it’s for those whose parents “elect instead to enroll them in first grade the following academic year.”
  • NYS says “who are five years of age on or before December first”, but NYC says “whose fifth birthday falls within the calendar year of admission” (that is, on or before December 31).

It’s not unusual for a state to authorize a city to do something, and for the wording to look different when the city does implement it. We’re just pointing out the differences because they may help clarify the intent of the lawmakers and the regulation-writers.

But in any case, knowing how this will all play out in NYC in real life is a little tricky. And we still don’t have any final wording specific to Rochester’s implementation of its bill.

We’ll continue to gather information, and post a Part 2 when we can. If you have any thoughts on this, or any information to contribute, please write to us at comments@pahsi.net .