Kindergarten may be delayed for O.C.’s youngest

09.01.2010 | The Orange County Register | Fermin Leal

The state Senate approved a bill to delay kindergarten for thousands of public school children.

The bill, approved this week 21-15, would require children to have turned 5 by Sept. 1 to begin kindergarten in that school year. The current cutoff date is Dec. 2. The bill now heads to the governor.

The bill by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, could save the state an estimated $700 million per year by cutting enrollment. The state Department of Education estimates about 100,000 of California’s 430,000 kindergartners start school before their fifth birthday.

California is one of a handful of states that allow students with a December birthday to start kindergarten early. Most other states require the September birthday.

In Orange County, the bill could delay the start of kindergarten for roughly 8,000 students each year.

Capistrano Unified Superintendent Joseph Farley said he’s unsure the budget savings will carry over through future years.

“The kids who can’t enroll one year would just enroll the next year anyway, they’re still going to end up in kindergarten at some point,” he said.

Farley said the district will begin looking at potential impacts of the bill if signed into law, including whether older kindergarten students are really better prepared academically and developmentally.

Westminster School District already offers a two-year kindergarten program at nine campuses for students with late birthdays, so they can receive extra academic support. Spokeswoman Trish Montgomery said officials will review the bill to determine its impact on the district’s program.

If signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger, the bill would be phased in over three years starting in the 2012-13 school year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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