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Lowering Compulsory School Age: Philadelphia

Act 61 (HB1067):
Lowering Compulsory School Age to Six Years for the Philadelphia School District

The 2008-09 Education Omnibus bill (HB1067) was passed on July 9, 2008 as Act 61 of 2008. Included in this 67 page education bill is an amendment that was put on at the last consideration by Representative Roebuck, (D, Phila). The new law will allow Philadelphia School District to lower their compulsory attendance age from 8 years old to 6 years old. The law provides for an exemption for those who file a notice of intent to homeschool (under Section 1327.1).

If you reside in the Philadelphia School District and you homeschool children from 6 to 8 years old, you will need to file a Notice of Intent.

Here is an excerpt from the law, of interest is (8).
SECTION 26.  SECTION 2103 of the Act is amended to read:
SECTION 2103.  BOARD OF PUBLIC EDUCATION; ADDITIONAL DUTIES.-The duties of the Board of Public Education in Districts of the First Class, I addition to the duties prescribed in the Act, shall be
(1)  To define the general policies of the school system,
(2)  To legislate upon all matters pertaining thereto,
(3)  To determine and direct all expenditures for the maintenance and improvement of the school system,
(4)  To appoint the officers herein prescribed and define their duties,
(5)  To appoint teachers,
(6)  To grant and award scholarships on a merit basis,
(7)  In general to legislate upon all matters concerning the conduct of the schools subject to the provisions of this Act,
(8)  Provided, that notwithstanding the provisions of Section 1326, the governing authority of the school district may establish the compulsory school age at no earlier than age six.  The provisions of Section 1326 shall continue to apply to any student enrolled in a program under Section 1327.1 or to any student whose parent or guardian files a notice of intention to enroll the student in a program under Section 1327.1.

PHEA Analysis
This is a “feel good” piece of legislation and opens the door to lowering the compulsory age further and applying it statewide. It is clear from data and common sense that public school parents enroll their children at the earliest year possible. “Most Philadelphia school district students are enrolled by age five. But Ackerman [Dr. Arlene Ackerman – Philadelphia’s former superintendent of schools] says about 700 students start later.” (Philly’s School Age Mandate, English, Taunya, PRCN, July 07, 2008).

According to 2006-07 Pennsylvania Department of Education Data, there are 68,692 students enrolled in Philadelphia schools younger than 8 years old (2nd grade or less). There is no way for Dr. Ackerman to come up with such data, but assuming that there are 700 students younger than 8 that start later, is to speak of 1% of the population. Not stated in any information is “Why” do they start late. Some children are simply not ready for formal education. How many of these children were held back purposefully BY THEIR PARENTS, knowing what is best for their children? If parents still want to hold their children back from formal education, they only need file a notice of intent to homeschool and then determine when or if their child will go to school at a future date.
This legislation may open the door for other districts to follow Philadelphia’s lead.

Sample Notice of Intent

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