California’s Kindergarten Programs May Change If Two New Proposals Become Mandated

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Newly submitted laws might have a huge influence on the early education scene in California if they are signed into law.

Susan Rubio, a state senator from Baldwin Park, has sponsored legislation to make kindergarten obligatory, while Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, from Sacramento, has introduced legislation requiring school districts to provide full-day kindergarten. These two pieces of legislation, even though they’ve been proposed previously, will significantly change and broaden the kindergarten experience.

The increased focus on early childhood education in these ideas might be a trend, according to others. Early childhood difficulties may finally be receiving the attention they deserve after years of being overshadowed by other challenges.

Experts believe there is an increasing agreement, supported by considerable research, that high-quality early education may help youngsters acquire the abilities they need to become lifelong learners.

Presiden Gennie Gorback of the California Kindergarten Association believes that society as a whole is coming to recognize the significance of early childhood education. “We know that early childhood education increases successful outcomes for kids later in life.”

Some children who skip kindergarten have a hard time keeping up with their classmates if kindergarten is made obligatory, supporters warn. The pandemic has made it more difficult for children from low-income homes to catch up academically with their more affluent peers.

Patricia Lozano, executive director of the early education advocacy group Early Edge, stated, “Mandating kindergarten is beneficial to children in our state.” To put it another way, this regulation from the state of California says that kindergarten is important. Sets expectations for both parents and children and teaches them how to succeed in school.

Her 17 years as a public school teacher and administrator have exposed Rubio to the wide range of talents pupils bring with them when they start school. There are some children who are already able to read when they start school, while others have only been read to a few times. Rubio noticed that the disparity grows with time.

He says he has seen the negative effects on young people who aren’t given the opportunity to get a solid education at an early age. “Students are unprepared for the educational environment they will encounter in elementary school because they voluntarily participate in kindergarten.” Because of the epidemic, things have become much worse.”

According to the Education Commission of the States, a research body that keeps tabs on state education policy, kindergarten is optional in California and most other states. According to the California Kindergarten Association, just 5% to 7% of California youngsters do not attend kindergarten by the time they are six years old, despite the state mandate.

In the event of a global pandemic, this is a different story, and many parents have chosen to keep their children home from school for this reason alone. Even today, outbreaks of the virus force some parents to choose their children’s safety above their education.

Senate Bill 70, which would require all kids to finish a year of kindergarten before beginning first grade, now travels to the state Assembly after passing in a bipartisan vote in the Senate.

As a reminder, Gov. Jerry Brown rejected a similar mandated kindergarten measure in 2014, citing the value of family choice.

I prefer that parents decide what is best for their children, rather than having the government tell them what they should do,” he stated.

However, others argue that making kindergarten compulsory is a method of highlighting its importance.

There are more absences when a grade is not required, according to University of Wisconsin early childhood education researcher Beth Graue. A curriculum that includes students who aren’t grade level equivalents is difficult to construct.

The fact that kindergarten has evolved throughout the years may be a major problem. According to study, youngsters now devote a lesser amount of their time to activities such as art, music, and theater than they used to. Teaching professionals argue that kindergarten is now essential for preparing students for first grade, which is more intellectually demanding than it used to be.

Mandating local districts provide a full-day kindergarten program is another possibility for the state’s kindergarten policy. According to the bill’s proponents, providing pupils with extra instructional time helps them better prepare for first grade. For the time being, just a few school districts provide full-day kindergarten options.

As McCarty put it, “Full-day kindergarten gives students the time they need to engage in meaningful learning and play.” Part-day programs may not be as effective in preparing students for school as full-day ones.

Full-day kindergarten would be mandated for all kids beginning in the 2025-26 school year under Assembly Bill 1973. Part-day kindergarten would be an option for schools in addition to the current full-day curriculum.

Children who attend a full-day program had higher results than those who attend part-day programs, according to Gorback. For our English language learners and children from lower socio-economic backgrounds, full-day programs are useful.” Furthermore, full-day programs offer more time for play, which experts believe is quite essential.

Shirley Weber, an Assemblywoman from San Diego, sponsored legislation in 2019 that called for full-day kindergarten.

However, some families opt to send their children to part-time kindergarten because they feel that a shorter school day is better for their children’s development. According to studies, this is one of the reasons why districts serving middle- and upper-class neighborhoods are more likely to provide part-day kindergarten than districts serving lower- and upper-class regions.

According to the Berkeley Early Childhood Think Tank, over three-quarters of the state’s primary schools now provide full-day kindergarten. A stay-at-home parent can only be hired by wealthy families since child care is sometimes too costly. Since some experts believe that full-day kindergarten programs will have little influence on low-income families, they argue that expanding them is unnecessary.

“The governor and state lawmakers keep trumpeting the vital importance of narrowing disparities in early learning. But expanding full-day K would likely work against this virtuous aim,” However, Bruce Fuller, a UC Berkeley professor of education and public policy, believes that extending full-day kindergarten would be counterproductive to this noble goal. Expanding full-day kindergarten will have “Expanding full-day K would hold regressive effects, mostly benefiting economically better-off communities.”