The House of Representatives approved a bill changing the compulsory school attendance age from 17 to 18 years old, but stopped short of making kindergarten mandatory.

Rep. Jeffrey Guice, R-Ocean Springs, presented House Bill 567 on the floor.

Students who have completed the required coursework or obtained a G.E.D. before they turn 17 are exempt from this bill.

Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes, D-Gulfport, attempted to amend the bill to also make kindergarten mandatory.

Several lawmakers expressed concern about the impact on private and church schools that serve kindergarten, but the amendment applied only to public schools, Williams-Barnes said.

Several other legislators expressed concern about parents being able to choose when their child attends school.

“If we’re putting more requirements on our students in 3rd grade for the 3rd grade reading gate, let’s ensure that they get an early start,” Williams-Barnes said.

Her amendment failed.

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Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.