Children who are five years old will now be required to attend kindergarten in New York City public schools, if an amendment to the city's admissions regulation is approved by the Panel for Educational Policy later this month. However, in keeping with the state law signed by Governor Cuomo in July, there are two exceptions: parents may choose to wait and enroll their child in 1st grade the year they turn six, and children who are home-schooled or in private school won't have to enroll in kindergarten when they are five.
Although this change does not exactly make kindergarten mandatory for all five-year-olds, advocates say it sends a message to schools that they can no longer refuse to admit five-year-olds.
"We have seen families turned away from schools with the explanation that kindergarten is not mandatory," said Randi Levine, project director for early childhood education at Advocates for Children. "Although children currently have the right to attend to attend kindergarten this change would make it very clear that schools are required to serve kindergarten students and are not permitted to turn them away."
In the past, kindergarten was an entitlement but not mandatory, that is, schools were required to offer all five year old seats, but parents were not required to send their children. The proposed kindergarten amendment to the Chancellor's Regulation states: "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."
Last month DOE released a series of other amendments to the Chancellor's Regulation including several that change priority rankings when applying to kindergarten and pre-kindergarten and clarifying admission to schools where the zoning has changed.
Click here to see the entire Chancellor's Regulation A-101 which is up for a vote at the Dec. 20 PEP meeting.