Alabama Senate Approves Bill to Enhance First Grade Readiness, Awaits House Confirmation

The Alabama State Legislature approved a bill on Wednesday mandating children to complete kindergarten or a similar program, following years of advocacy.

Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, sponsored the bill, known as HB 113, which requires students to either complete kindergarten or demonstrate readiness for first grade through an assessment.

The bill passed with a 35-0 vote, aligning Alabama with the minority of states that mandate kindergarten attendance. As of 2020, only 19 states and the District of Columbia have such requirements, as per the National Center for Education Statistics.

According to Sen. Donnie Chesteen, R-Geneva, the Senate Education Policy committee chair and bill sponsor, the focus is on providing a solid foundation for children early on, especially with the full implementation of the Literacy Act.

Despite being in the hospital, Warren expressed satisfaction with the bill’s advancement after continuous efforts spanning seven years.

Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, who had opposed the bill previously, proposed amendments that included incorporating assessment schedules to identify and address students’ academic shortcomings.

The legislation outlines a comprehensive plan for student assessments during the 2025-26 and 2026-27 school years to enhance readiness for enrollment and offer support to those in need.

The State Department of Education is tasked with launching an awareness campaign, prioritizing regions with lower kindergarten enrollment rates to ensure inclusive education practices.

Chesteen emphasized the bill’s potential to address educational challenges proactively and effectively.

While the House of Representatives had endorsed the bill numerous times, Senate obstacles, notably from Smitherman, hindered its progress.

Warren expressed interest in receiving a detailed report on the newly added amendment and highlighted her desire for the bill to launch imminently.

The bill’s importance was underscored by Chesteen before the legislative session, emphasizing its significance to the Republican caucus.

Despite Warren’s acknowledgement of the Governor’s Commission on Teaching and Learning support, Smitherman’s official endorsement was pending in August.

Alabama’s legislative reforms over the past decade have concentrated on enhancing early education standards, evident through initiatives like the Literacy Act and the Numeracy Act.

The state has accentuated investments in pre-kindergarten programs, recognized for their consistent delivery of quality early childhood education.

The bill will now proceed to the House of Representatives for final approval or adjustments based on Senate amendments, signaling a significant step towards educational reform.

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