SPRINGFIELD — Beginning in the fall of 2014, Illinois children will be required to start school at age 6 instead of 7, under legislation expected to be signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn on Sunday.

The measure is designed bring Illinois in line with other states and to combat truancy.

Illinois is among 14 states that do not require children to attend school until they turn 7. Two other states start at the age of 8. Most states require children to go to school starting at age 5 or 6.

Supporters say an earlier start keeps children from falling behind their peers in reading and math skills.

"Study after study has demonstrated that the earlier kids start school, the more likely they are to succeed," said state Sen. Kim Lightford, D-Maywood, who sponsored the proposal. "This law will help make sure all of our children are on the right path.

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

Republican opponents argued the decision on when a child should begin school should be left up to parents.

Under Illinois law, child truants do not face any penalties. But 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.

The legislation is Senate Bill 1307.

I'm the city editor at the Quad-City Times. You can reach me at dbowerman@qctimes.com or 563-383-2450.

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