Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2013, 11:18 pm

School districts not expecting many ripples from new compulsory age

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By Anthony Watt, awatt@qconline.com

Several Quad-Cities area school districts are not expecting a new, lower compulsory school age to cause much complication in operations.

The law signed last Sunday by Gov. Pat Quinn and scheduled to take effect in the 2014-2015 school year, lowers the compulsory age from 7 to 6, a move state officials said puts Illinois in line with about half of U.S. states.

Once the law takes effect, any student turning 6 years old on or before Sept. 1 must be enrolled in school for that school year.

Officials from local districts -- including Hampton, Silvis, Rock Island-Milan and Moline-Coal Valley -- said most of their students already start before 7 or even 6, or that the law would not change things to any serious degree.

"I do not recall anyone over the years not starting their child in kindergarten at age 5," Hampton superintendent Tom Berg said. "There are often people who ask to start children at age 4. For Hampton, I believe it to be a non-issue."

Silvis superintendent Ray Bergles said most Silvis students have attended preschool, then go directly to kindergarten."There might be (one to three) students per year that might begin later," he said.

Nearly all Carbon Cliff-Barstow students are in kindergarten by the time they are 5, superintendent Andy Richmond said.

Initially, backers wanted the compulsory age lowered to 5, which is the compulsory age in the District of Columbia, but that idea was scrapped.

Opponents had questioned the cost of the change. State officials have estimated that lowering the age would cost roughly $28 million.

The Illinois State Board of Education said that cost would be spread out between school districts and the state and would be caused by the possible influx of students.

But Gov. Quinn said the overall societal benefits of educating children outweighed the costs.

Mr. Richmond said the measure could have some advantages for students in regards to their development at the time they reach school.

"The only advantage I see by waiting until the age of 6 would be the maturation of the child," Mr. Richmond said.

The law can be viewed at http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/fulltext.asp?Name=098-0544 .

The Associated Press contributed to this report.