Simitian introduces kindergarten readiness bill

04.23.2010 | San Francisco Examiner | Joseph Capote

State Senator Joe Simitian has introduced a bill that will change the minimum age for kids entering kindergarten. The bill, known as senate bill 1381, is supported by policy experts and claims to save the state an estimated $700 million annually while taking in $9.1 billion dollars over a 13 year period.

Under current law, children entering kindergarten must be five years old by December 2nd of that school year. Simitian´s proposal would require that kindergarteners must turn five by September 1st of the school year. .

The bill aims to save $700 million annually in education spending due to the reduced number of students. SB 1381 would dedicate half of the funds to quality preschool programs for children whose entry to kindergarten would be delayed. The remainder of the funds would help alleviate California´s budget shortfall.

“I see this change as a win-win-win,” Simitian said. “Kindergarteners will be better prepared to succeed, we´ll free up much-needed funds during a tough economic time, and we can help fund an age appropriate quality pre-school program. It just makes sense, educationally and financially,” he said.

Many educators support the proposed age limits, which will be phased in over three years beginning in 2012. Last year 289 teachers in San Mateo County signed a petition to Simitian requesting the change. A 2005 study by the Rand Corporation supported the notion that beginning the school year at an older age improves social and academic development.

But where does the savings come from?

While the bill does a good job of phasing the age requirement change and outlining the use of funds saved for purposes of expanding the preschool program, it does not detail specifics about how much will be saved by the change. Senator Samitian indicates an estimated savings of $700 million annually but provides no information on how that number was derived.

In other words, the deferred students do not disappear, they still enter the school system. Delaying their entry one year means does not mean the state gets to forget about them altogether.

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