Gray: Early Childhood Education Shouldn’t be Mandatory in D.C.

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File photo of young students. (credit: Wendy Carlson/Getty Images for OfficeMax)

File photo of young students. (credit: Wendy Carlson/Getty Images for OfficeMax)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — Officials in the District agree that early childhood education is vital, but opinions differ on the appropriate age to start kids in formal schooling.

D.C. Councilmember Marion Barry has introduced a bill that would require attendance in some kind of public, independent, private or parochial school by age 3. Mayor Vincent Gray discussed the District’s efforts to support early childhood education in his weekly radio address Sunday morning on All-News 99.1 WNEW, but went on the record as opposing mandatory schooling for young children.

“If you make it mandatory, you also have a number of parents who really aren’t ready to send their children to school at age 3. They want them at home for whatever the purposes may be,” Gray said in his weekly address. “I think we will be far better served by making this a voluntary effort.”

Gray also is cautious about committing funding that’s available now, but may not be in tougher times.

“You want to make this a positive experience. (If) You start requiring it and if there’s some reason — for financial reasons, for example — the city can’t do it, it’s vulnerable then to being sued,” Gray said.

Currently, about two-thirds of 3-year-olds in D.C. are enrolled in public pre-kindergarten.

Listen to Gray’s weekly radio address in its entirety:

The mayor’s weekly radio address can be heard at 10:05 a.m. every Sunday exclusively on All-News 99.1 WNEW and streamed online.

WNEW’s Matt DelSignore contributed to this report. Follow him and WNEW on Twitter.

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