From the March 2001 Idaho Observer:

Senate bill would mandate public instruction to begin soon after diapers

New law would lower school age to three years

BOISE -- A bill that has temporarily stalled in committee would lower the age where children are eligible for public instruction from five years to three years of age.

According to existing law, the state will provide three-year-old children who have been determined to be "disabled" and who qualify for special education and other government services under the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) with public schooling. Within the parameters of applicable state and federal regulations, school age for children that qualify, ".shall begin at the attainment of three (3) years and shall continue through the semester of school in which the student attains the age of twenty-one (21) years."

SB 1027 seeks to add an additional sentence to existing law that will add two years to public instruction.

The proposed sentence is, "For a school district which conducts a prekindergarten program, 'school age' shall begin at the attainment of three (3) years."

Many school districts throughout the state are already offering prekindergarten programs in response to the growing numbers of children who are assessed as being disabled. More and more districts will be pressured into conducting prekindergarten programs to be compliant with the federal IDEA and state law with regard to the education rights for disabled children that are guaranteed by law.

SB 1027 is likely not being pushed heavily at this time because not enough school districts have prekindergarten programs in operation. The bill has been introduced so that legislators can get used to the idea.

At such time when most school districts are holding classes for disabled babies who are barely beyond the baby stage we can expect the bill to be moved out of committee and onto the floor for a vote.

There is a school of thought among child psychologists that the foundation of a person's lifelong attributes is built within the first few years of life. The earlier the state is able to involve itself in the socialization, education and conditioning process of a child, the more influence it will have in molding that child to fit the needs of the state.

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