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Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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Bill would require earlier enrollment in school

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Aug 11, 2013 11:20 PM
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With Pennsylvania's mandatory earliest age for attending school higher than it is in most other states, an effort is on to try bringing down what's called the minimum compulsory age.

In most of Pennsylvania, children don't have to enroll in school until they're eight years old. Rep. Fred Keller (R-Union) is proposing to make the compulsory age six years old.

The idea, he said, came to him after talking with educators in his district.

"We were discussing the start of school and, doing some research, I found that Pennsylvania is one of the few states that has the age as high as eight years old," said Keller.

In fact, only Washington state makes eight years the compulsory age for formal schooling, according to the Education Commission of the States.

Philadelphia already has a six years compulsory age rule for school attendance - the most common norm throughout the country.

The statewide rule has an exception: it requires students enrolled in first grade before they reach eight years old to continue on through grade school. Enrollment can be at a traditional, charter, or cyber charter public school, or an approved private school or homeschooling program.

The fiscal implications of requiring earlier schooling across the state are unclear, but Keller said it seems like common sense for children's development.

"When you look at all the studies that show that the sooner you start working with children and they start learning and they're in good programs, why, the better off they are in later years as far as success and learning and so forth," Keller said.

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