How House Bill 1873 didn't garner unanimous approval when the House considered it is mystifying. The measure seeks to double ticket fines for motorists who don't stop for school buses.

It was approved 74-16, with 12 representatives voting present. As proposed, the measure would double the fine for first offenses to $300 from $150, and for second offenses to $1,000 from $500.

If you doubt this is needed, consider just how frequently motorists pass school buses that have their stop sign arms outstretched: During a 38-state survey by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, a reported 83,944 vehicles ignored stop arms on a single day during the 2017-2018 school year. Those careless drivers can cause unspeakable tragedy, like the Oct. 30 crash in Rochester, Indiana, where a driver ignored the outstretched stop sign from a bus and struck four children as they were walking across the street to get on their school bus. Three of the kids — who were siblings — died, while the fourth was seriously injured.

It's already illegal to pass a school bus from either direction that has its stop sign out (an exception is if the bus is on a highway with more than four lanes where at least two lanes of traffic are going in the opposite direction). The presence of the stop sign means schoolchildren are either getting on or off the bus, and nearby motorists should stop to ensure their safety.

Yet opponents to the legislation argue that increasing penalties won't deter people from violating the law; and some say the increased fines might be a hardship for people who can't pay them.

That latter reason is among the more absurd arguments we've heard on the House floor. No one forces a motorist to drive past a school bus that has its stop sign extended. Anyone who gets a driver's license is expected to know the rules of the road — and it's not like it's ever going to be legal to pass a school bus that is offloading students.

Are motorists so caught up in themselves and where they are going that they are willing to endanger school children? If so, then they don't deserve the privilege of a driver's license. The Senate should approve this measure, and quickly send it Gov. J.B. Pritzker for his signature. The sooner this becomes law, the better.

The (Springfield) State Journal-Register

Other View: Early enrollment?

State law rightly requires children to attend school. But should it tell parents when to enroll them in kindergarten?

Members of the General Assembly are in the midst of a bill-passing frenzy, to the point that it's hard to imagine what they'll do next.

One case in point is pending legislation, which has already passed the Senate and is awaiting action in the House, that would require parents to enroll their children in kindergarten at age 5. It's an issue to some people because, for a variety of reasons, they prefer not to enroll their children in kindergarten until they are 6.

For starters, is this parental option really a serious enough problem to require legislative action to compel them to act otherwise?

A Democratic House member, Rep. Kam Buckner, insists that it is. He contends it's one of the solutions to the achievement gap, the difference in academic performance between low-income children, many of whom are minorities, and their higher-performing middle- and upper-income peers.

The point, apparently, is the sooner, the better when it comes to putting youngsters into a school setting.

That's an arguable point, one that would take serious research to prove. There are many children who already start kindergarten at age 5. Is the achievement gap for children from the at-risk demographic group lower when they start kindergarten at 5 than it is for their better-off classmates who start kindergarten at age 5?

On the other hand, there's no doubt that some 5-year-old children who could enroll in kindergarten have not developed sufficiently to be prepared.

Senate Bill 2075, which would take effect for the 2020-21 school year, would require children to attend kindergarten if they are 5 on or before May 31. It would allow parents of 5-year-old with summer birthdays to choose whether to send them to kindergarten or wait an additional year.

The Legislature's concern is well-intentioned. But intentions are irrelevant to the issue at hand.

It's always concerning when the state adopts the role of in loco parentis to mandate the decisions of parents concerning the education of their children, particularly those of tender years.

In that respect, the need for action must be obvious, a standard that is lacking on this issue.

The (Champaign) News-Gazette

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