Editorial: Kindergarten bill helps kids, taxpayers
09.03.2010 | Pasadena Star-News
IT isn’t often that state legislators come up with a proposal to improve education without additional spending. But a bill by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, accomplishes such a task at a time when California is bogged down in a seemingly endless budget crisis.
His Senate Bill 1381 would change the age requirements for children to enter kindergarten. Currently, state law mandates that a child be admitted to kindergarten during the school year in which his or her fifth birthday occurs on or before Dec. 2. Children whose sixth birthday is on or before Dec. 2 must be admitted to first grade that school year.
Simitian’s bill would change the required birth date for admission to kindergarten and first grade to Nov. 1 for the 2012-13 school year, Oct. 1 for the 2013-14 school year and Sept. 1 for the 2014-15 school year and all years thereafter.
That would put California more in line with most other states and could help improve academic performance, which is among the nation’s lowest.
When fully implemented, the change would save about $700 million a year because there would be an estimated 100,000 fewer children qualifying to begin school. The savings would continue until the first group graduates from high school, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.
Not only would the state save money, children also would benefit. The present age requirements too often result in children beginning kindergarten or grade one before they are mature enough to handle the schoolwork. For those with fall birthdays, the bill provides them a year of “transitional kindergarten” which would be funded by the money that would’ve been spent on regular kindergarten classes.
In 2008, a Public Policy Institute of California review of 14 studies found that students who start kindergarten at older ages perform better on math and reading tests into eighth grade. Educators also believe that the change in the age limit could reduce the number of children in special education and those who are held back, as well as help close the achievement gap that divides affluent and lower-income kids.
Moving the admissions birth date requirement is not a new idea. Gov. Pete Wilson proposed it back in 1992. Unfortunately, opposition by the California Teachers Association killed it then.
Simitian’s bill, however, was amended to keep all of the $700 million in the K-12 system instead of diverting half of it to the state’s general fund. Because of the change, the CTA, the Association of California School Administrators and business interests have rallied around the measure. The measure earlier this week passed out of the Senate and received bipartisan support in both houses.
If it becomes law, California children would enter school at a more reasonable age, giving them an opportunity to achieve greater academic success at no extra cost to the taxpayers.
This bipartisan effort will help children, schools and state taxpayers. It should be signed by the governor.