State considers raising kindergarten age

June 2, 2010 6:10:34 PM PDT
If you have a child on the way to kindergarten, they may not be going as soon as you think. In a move to save the state a lot of money, lawmakers are considering delaying the start of kindergarten for tens of thousands of children. However, what may save the state, may cost some parents.

By changing the kindergarten entry age from 5 years old by Dec. 2 to 5 years old by Sep. 1, the hope is to weed out 4-year-olds who typically are not ready for school. California is one of only four states with a cut-off date later than Dec. 1.

"We have one-quarter of our school population starting too young, not doing well unnecessarily," said St. Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto. "It's a simple fix that would impact millions of California kids in years to come."

Under the proposal, roughly 100,000 California kids would have to wait another year. Research shows beginning school at an older age benefits academic performance and social development.

The state Senate approved the measure, 28-4, getting bi-partisan support. All the opponents were Democrats.

"As a parent, I want my children to start kindergarten early," said St. Sen. Lois Wolk/D-Davis. "I think, as a society, we want them to get more education, not less."

The state would save about $700 million a year from having fewer children in kindergarten. Half would go towards increasing pre-school enrollment; the other half would help alleviate the budget deficit.

That extra money will not help all families. By delaying the entry age, some parents worry about having to pay for daycare or preschool for another year. Still, teachers insist the move is good.

"[It] would definitely be more beneficial for them to spend another year in preschool getting those kindergarten readiness skills together," said teacher Dana Rivers of Hawthorne, California.

"The class keeps moving and that child that's not ready falls behind," said teacher Melissa Ali of Carson, California.

For quick learners, parents would be able to ask their school districts to let their 4-year-old start kindergarten early. The proposal now heads to the Assembly.


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