⚫ Currently in NJ, a parent must have their child enrolled in school at age 6

⚫ A legislator says that kids who begin schooling at 6 are at a disadvantage

⚫ NJ does not require that children attend kindergarten

Lawmakers and education advocates say kids are missing out on a key learning opportunity because New Jersey has not yet made a long overdue change.

A proposed state law that was up for discussion before the Senate Education Committee on Monday would change the mandatory minimum schooling age in New Jersey to 5 years old.

Currently, minors in New Jersey need to receive education between ages 6 and 16.

"Those students who wait until the age of 6, they're starting at a disadvantage," said Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer, sponsor of the measure. "We are spending more money for these students who have to have remedial work just to catch up."

The bill notes that with the change, all sections of state law related to truancy would have to be adjusted as well.

RELATED: NJ considers dropping a requirement to address teacher shortage

Melanie Schulz, director of government relations for the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, said compulsory attendance at age 5 would be welcome because right now, it's difficult to pursue attendance issues with kindergarten students, as many fall outside the mandatory attendance age.

"And as we know, students with early attendance problems tend to continue to have difficulty without intervention," Schulz told the legislative panel. "Districts certainly make efforts but lack the ability to take the last step they need to have their children attend."

Kindergarten is not mandatory in New Jersey

Critics of the measure claim the conversation isn't even worth having, since New Jersey does not currently require that children attend kindergarten.

"I think we need to discuss mandatory full-day kindergarten ... and adequately fund it," said Sen. Henry Owen, R-Middlesex.

According to Schulz, if the law change would mean the implementation of full-day kindergarten statewide, districts without space and resources could be heavily burdened.

The committee did not vote on Turner's measure; lawmakers just wanted to hear parties' views on the proposal.

As of now, there is no companion bill in the Assembly.

Several states require that children attend school starting at 5 years old.

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