SAN RAMON, Calif. -- California could soon mandate kindergarten for all children in the state. The bill was passed by the state Senate on Monday, and is now going to Governor Gavin Newsom's desk.
Senate Bill 70 would require students to complete one year of kindergarten before entering the first grade.
The bill was passed by Senator Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park).
"I'm so excited that we finally got it done," Rubio said. "What this means is that the lowest income children from low income communities now will be in schools when they need to be. As a former teacher for 17 years, I know that kinder is the building blocks for what comes next."
The former public school teacher says she would see a noticeable difference between students that attend kindergarten and those that don't.
"You just see the difference, not only physically in their inability to collaborate with classmates, how to hold a pencil, but even their confidence and participation, the kids who don't attend kinder, really spend half a year trying to figure out what school is," she said.
The bill comes after a lot of families across California decided to skip kindergarten during the COVID-19 pandemic---heightening learning gap concerns.
Kiran Kaipa is no stranger to student drop off time at Neil Armstrong Elementary School in San Ramon.
With one child in 5th grade and a two-year-old who will go here for kindergarten, too.
"We are definitely going to send our son to kindergarten!" Kaipa said.
While he thought kindergarten had been mandatory all along, he thinks it's a good thing that it may soon be a requirement for any 5-year-old in California before heading to 1st grade.
"I think they should all do kindergarten because it's really fun, what I learn from the kids, that they really have a good time, and they get acclimated to the school, I think starting 1st grade is when they actually do some serious stuff like homework," he said.
If approved, it would not go into effect until the 2024 - 2025 school year. And parents would no longer be able to have their child skip kindergarten unlike current California law.
And schools welcome the news. The bill has already received support from the Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest school district in the state.
While the San Ramon Valley Unified School District hasn't had a chance to evaluate and analyze Senate Bill 70, if kindergarten does become mandatory instead of compulsory, a spokesperson for the district says, "we will be excited to welcome more students to our district and help ensure they are prepared to successfully enter 1st grade and the rest of their educational experiences."
The goal is make sure students are prepared socially and academically before entering elementary school, ensuring all children receive critical instruction in their earliest years of learning.
Kindergartners who miss 10% or more of school days have lower academic performance when they reach grade one, according to the National Education Association.
The bill also compared long-term outcomes of children born in states that already have mandatory kindergarten compared to states with voluntary kindergarten.
They found children who attend are more likely to go to college, earn higher wages and are less likely to experience poverty as adults.
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