Steinberg, Senate Democrats Introduce Kindergarten Readiness Act

January 07, 2014

SB 837 would make Transitional Kindergarten Available to All Four-Year-Olds in CA

(Sacramento) – In recognition that too many California children are missing out on the early education they need to succeed in school, Senate President Darrell Steinberg is introducing the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2014, which will make one year of high quality, voluntary transitional kindergarten available to every four-year-old child in California.

By providing transitional kindergarten (TK) for all, SB 837 will fill the gap in critical early education for our youngest students, where only one in every four preschool-age children is now eligible for the current transitional kindergarten program and only half of California’s low-income children are served in Head Start or State Preschool. Study after study has shown that children attending high quality preschool programs perform better throughout their subsequent years in school and graduate from high school at a higher rate than their peers. This is especially true for low income students, and SB 837 will help bridge that achievement gap.

“Expanding transitional kindergarten for all four-year-olds is the unfinished business of last year’s important school reform of the Local Control Funding Formula, where we devote more resources to the kids who need it the most. Giving low income and English learning students more help is terrific, but it has to start as early as possible,” said Steinberg. “In many cases for the fifth grader who is already behind in math or the high school sophomore reading at the seventh grade level, the LCFF is too late. In time, the Kindergarten Readiness Act will fill that gap.”

George Halvorson, former chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, notes that children are better prepared to do well in school when their minds get the exercise and stimulation needed in their earliest years.

“We can no longer afford to wait to ensure all of California's youngest learners have the early experiences they need to be ready for success in school and life. This begins early - with the biggest windows of learning and brain development occurring in infancy, toddlerhood and the preschool years,” said Halvorson. “I applaud Senate President pro Tem Steinberg and his colleagues for recognizing that investing in children early is the best way to build a strong economy in the future.”

The existing transitional kindergarten has a ratio of one teacher for 24 students. This expanded “Transitional Kindergarten for All” program would require a credentialed teacher and associate teacher (with a minimum of an AA degree and 24 units of early childhood education) in each class of 20 students, lowering the ratio to one adult for every ten students. Phased in over a five-year period, the program will eventually provide TK for all four-year-olds in California, with an extra year of Head Start or Strong Start for children living in poverty. School districts and charter schools would be allowed to contract with private TK providers who meet quality standards.

“Thanks to the leadership of Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, 2014 is going to be a big year for our youngest learners,” said Deborah Kong, President of Early Edge California. “The TK for All legislation introduced today recognizes the reality that an achievement gap among children is present well before children first step through the kindergarten door, and that investing in early education is the wise investment. We now have a clear path forward for ensuring all children start school prepared to learn.”

Studies show that high quality early education programs generate seven dollars or more in savings for every dollar invested. Those savings include higher lifetime earnings for successful students, lower rates of students repeating grade levels, lower placements in special education programs and lower crime rates. A report last year by the Fight Crime Invest in Kids organization estimates that high quality TK would reduce the state prison population by 13,000 inmates, saving more than one billion dollars a year.

"The research is clear: high-quality early education promotes academic success, boosts graduation rates, and cuts crime in the long run," said Elk Grove Police Chief Robert Lehner. “This proposal would expand Transitional Kindergarten in California, offering all kids in the state a chance for success and, with it, fewer criminals and less crime.”

The legislation proposes a model of both a morning and afternoon session for each two-teacher team, reducing the Average Daily Attendance (ADA) funding to $6,000, which is lower than existing TK ADA. During the five-year phase-in period, 46,000 four-year-olds would be added each year to the TK for All program, eventually totaling 350,000 additional children eligible for transitional kindergarten. The additional funding would be $198 million each year, for a total of $990 million by 2019-20.

SB 837 is authored by Senator Steinberg, and is sponsored by Early Edge California and State Superintendent of Instruction Tom Torlakson. Joint authors are Senators Jim Beall (D-San Jose), Marty Block (D-San Diego), Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), Carol Liu (D-La Canada Flintridge), and Lois Wolk (D-Davis). The bill is co-authored by Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Alameda).

The language of SB 837 can be found here. Please also find attached a fact sheet on the measure. Details of the bill were announced at a press conference this morning at H.W. Harkness Elementary School in Sacramento. Video of the press conference will be posted later today on Senator Steinberg’s website at http://sd06.senate.ca.gov/

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