Proposed law would make 4-year-old kids wait to start school

06.04.2010 | San Francisco Chronicle | Jill Tucker

See Dick wait to start kindergarten. Wait, Dick, wait.

A bill pending in the Legislature would force 4-year-olds to wait a year for kindergarten, a measure aimed at helping kids get ready for the rigors or reading, writing and ‘rithmatic.

The bill, authored by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, would pull back the birthday cutoff for kindergarten from Dec. 2 to Sept. 30, with the date phased in over three years starting in 2012.

“Today’s kindergarten classroom is a much different place than most of us experienced,” Simitian said. “We’re placing real academic demands on our kids, and the youngest are struggling to keep up.”

Similar bills have been introduced in years past and all have been shot down.

But with the economy continuing to put a stranglehold on California, legislators might have extra incentive to take a harder look this time.

If SB 1381 passes, it would delay kindergarten for an estimated 100,000 children, saving the state $700 million annually for 13 years.

Simitian wants to spend half the savings on preschool programs. The other half would backfill the state budget.

Opponents argue that while the state saves money, local schools still have to keep the lights on at the same number of schools and that fewer students will exacerbate budget cuts.

Simitian says phasing in the cutoff will help mitigate the loss of revenue.

The measure sailed through the Senate, but will likely face greater opposition in the Assembly this month.

The vast majority of states require students to turn five by Sept. 30 or earlier. A handful of states leave it up to locals. Indiana has a July 1 cutoff for kindergartners. Connecticut and Vermont are the only states with a later cutoff, requiring kindergartners to turn 5 by Jan. 1.

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