Monday, May 17, 2010


SB 1381 would phase in a Sept. 1 cutoff date. It would improve student performance and save more than $9 billion over 15 years, some of which would fund preschool for low-income students.

LA Times Editorial

SB 1381: The actual bill

●●smf: I will write at length and at nauseum on this subject - but here are some things to think about while you wait.

  • The intent of this legislation is not a "brighter academic picture", it is to "save money". This is disinvesting in the future of our children and calling it "savings".
  • Kindergarten in California is not a mandatory program, it is optional. I am not advocating eliminating it, I am saying K should be mandatory. The subject is K-12 Education!
  • Further: Quality public preschool on the HeadStart or First5 model should be universally offered - available to everyone who wants it.. To fund such programs with ½ of the savings from cutting Kindergarten programs is the zenith (or nadir) of cynicism. (The Gov's May Revise Budget hammers state preschool!)
  • All kids are not magically ready for K on their fifth birthday - or on the Dec 2 or Sept 1 immediately thereafter. Most parents are the best judges of their kids' readiness.
  • The sugar pill offering to allow parents to appeal for early entry leaves the choice with the school district – school districts (like the legislature) are inclined to act in their own - not the student's- best interest.

May 17, 2010 -- For better or worse, kindergarten has replaced the cookies, milk and naptime of old with reading lessons and numbers worksheets. It's hard enough for a 5-year-old to negotiate; teachers complain that those younger than 5 are especially likely to fall behind. That's why most states have changed their laws, requiring children to have turned 5 close to the start of the school year in order to enter kindergarten. California is one of a dozen that haven't; here, the cutoff date is Dec. 2.

A bill by state Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) would do more than remedy the situation. By phasing in a Sept. 1 cutoff date, it would save California more than $9 billion over 15 years — an average of nearly $700 million annually during the years when it would be fully implemented. And it would put half the savings into preschool for low-income students who are too young for kindergarten, which would make them all the more prepared for a successful public school career starting with that first year in the big K.

Simitian's bill goes about this shift cannily. If the state suddenly changed the cutoff date to Sept. 1, kindergarten enrollment would plummet that one year by a fourth, or about 100,000 students. Although that would save money for the state, school districts would be pushed into immediate financial crisis by the sudden loss of the state attendance money for each student, and the state preschool system would be unable to gear up for the increased enrollment. Instead, Senate Bill 1381 would phase in the new cutoff dates, one month at a time over three years, lowering enrollment for each year's entering class by about 33,000. The savings would end in 15 years, once those smaller classes graduated.

Some 4-year-olds are ready for the new academic rigors of kindergarten, and Simitian's bill would permit parents to appeal to their local districts to enroll them. It also uses state resources more efficiently because state preschool is about half as expensive per student as kindergarten.

Who could possibly object to a bill that improves student performance, expands needed preschool programs and saves the state hundreds of millions a year for more than a decade? The powerful California Teachers Assn. opposes SB 1381, saying that the state would be making budget cuts "on the backs of children." That's not true. Students would be better off; it's the teachers union that would be worse off, because having fewer students enrolled over the 15 years would mean that fewer teachers would be needed. Although this is a legitimate concern for unions, it's a weak reason to keep a fiscally and educationally sound bill from becoming law.

Lawmakers could plow some of that money back into the schools, they could increase funding for public colleges and universities, or they could use it to plug a few holes in the deficit. But they should be given the flexibility to use that extra money as needed over the years. SB 1381 is a smart and thoughtfully designed bill that deserves swift passage.


Bob said...

I do not see how this bill saves any money in the long run. These children do not disappear. After the new start age is fully phased in, they will still all attend school the same number of years ,K-12,regardless of their age when they start school. It also will not result in smaller class sizes or fewer teachers when phased in.
All it does do is create a larger pool(by 100000) of preschool age children. This will increase costs as someone will pay for many of these children to attend preschool for many months longer.

Bob said...

This will have some interesting effects as the 3 year small class size ripples through the system. It seems like middle school and high schools will be impacted the most. Will 8% of middle school and high school teachers and need to take a 3 year vacation?
Also over the 15 years , population growth is going to reduce the $ savings. This will also impact teacher recruiting to recover after the 3 year bubble passes each grade.

Zanne said...

For three school years (2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15) the children eligible for Kindergarten will be reduced. During those years one month of eligible students will be omitted. Therefore, the schools will be admitting from a pool of students whose birthdays cover an eleven month period instead of a twelve month period.
Once the 2015/16 school year begins the enrollment will go back to normal.