The Alabama House of Representatives passed legislation on Tuesday requiring that a child who seeks to go to first grade must either have attended kindergarten previously or passed a standardized skills test prepared by the Alabama State Department of Education.

House Bill 331 (HB331) is sponsored by State Rep. Pebblin Warren (D-Tuskegee).

Warren said, “This is a first-grade readiness bill.

“We are setting up a student for failure when we put them in a first-grade classroom with students who have been in pre-K and kindergarten when they have never been in school before,” Warren said.

“This bill allows for a first-grade readiness test set by the state department of education (ALSDE),” to be given to children attempting to enroll in first grade that were not enrolled in a kindergarten program in the prior year."

State Rep. Kyle South (R-Fayette) said, “Now we are spending $186 million on pre-K.”

South said, ”I am with you on most of this bill. The one area [of concern] I have is allowing a five-year-old to enroll.”

“I agree that we need to fully fund pre-K,” South said.

South expressed concerns that poor rural systems are often the systems where the children most need pre-K but the state requires that local systems put up matching funds in order to get a pre-K classroom. Those are often the systems that can’t afford the matching funds so they will start four-year-olds in kindergarten and five-year-olds in first grade.

HB331 passed the House 81 to 19.

The House has passed this legislation in past legislative sessions, but it was rejected by the Alabama Senate. It next goes to the Senate.

Warren said, “I used to call this a mandatory kindergarten bill. I have learned from my mistakes. This is a school readiness bill.”

Thursday will be day 15 of the 2022 Alabama Regular Legislative Session. The legislature is limited to 30 legislative days in a regular session during a 120 day period.

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