Lightford law sends children to school earlier

Lowers the compulsory education age from 7 to 6

lightford0826CHICAGO – State Senator Kimberly A. Lightford's (D-Maywood) plan to require all children to start school at age 6 is now law.

"Study after study has demonstrated that the earlier kids start school, the more likely they are to succeed," Lightford said. "This law will help make sure all of our children are on the right path."

The new law (Senate Bill 1307) lowers Illinois' compulsory education age from 7 to 6 – a move strongly supported by Illinois teachers. Illinois was one of only 14 states that do not require children to attend school until they turn 7. Two other states start at the age of 8. However, most states require children to go to school starting at age 5 or 6.

According to a Chicago Tribune report, nearly 18 percent of Chicago kindergartners and first-graders were chronic truants during the 2010-11 school year, missing nine or more days without a valid excuse.

Under Illinois law, child truants do not face any penalties – their parents do. A parent who doesn't make every effort to make sure their children are at school can face up to 30 days in jail or a $1,500 fine, though the courts rarely impose such severe penalties.

"Parents need to get their kids to school," Lightford said. "Helping our children get a good education and prepare for the future is one of our most important jobs as parents."

Lightford's legislation requires parents to begin their children's education at age 6, but it doesn't specify where the children have to go. Public school, private school, religious schools, charter schools and home school are equally valid choices.

An earlier version of the measure required children to start school at age 5, but after talking to educators and parents, Lightford agreed that some children may not be mature enough for school until age 6.

The new law continues Lightford's long history of advocating for education reform. She has passed laws to put the best teachers in the classroom and to address the balance between regular public schools and charter schools. She also has done extensive work on the issues of recess for all students and class size.

Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford


4th District
Assistant Majority Leader

Years served:
1998 - Present (Senate) 

Committee assignments: Assignments; Executive; Education (Vice-Chairperson); Financial Institutions; Higher Education; Committee of the Whole; Subcommittee on Special Issues (EX); Subcommittee on Charter Schools (Sub-Chairperson); Advisory Committee On Ed. Funding; Executive Appointments.

Biography: Full-time senator; B.A. in communications, Western Illinois University; M.A. in public administration, University of Illinois Springfield; village of Maywood trustee; employee for Secretary of State, Department of Corrections and Central Management Services; longtime champion in the Senate for education, working families and women's issues; lives in Maywood with her son, Isaiah.

Associated Representative(s): Emanuel Chris Welch, La Shawn K. Ford