Why did Governor Newsom veto mandatory kindergarten law? – Pasadena Star News

By SOPHIE AUSTIN | The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — Beyond what they learn academically in kindergarten, students learn everyday routines: how to take care of class materials and how to be kind to their peers, according to Golden Empire Elementary School kindergarten teacher Carla Randazzo.

While developing those skills became more difficult for students going to school online during the pandemic, occasionally, a student entering first grade at Golden Empire didn’t attend kindergarten at all, Randazzo said. Nearly two-thirds of students at the Sacramento school are English learners.

“Those kids just started out having to climb uphill,” she said. “They need a lot of support to be successful.”

Randazzo always thought it was “peculiar” that kindergarten is not mandatory in California. For now, though, California won’t join the 20 other states with mandatory kindergarten.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, vetoed legislation Sunday night that would have required children to attend kindergarten — whether through homeschooling, public or private school — before entering first grade at a public school.

As he has with other recent legislative vetoes, Newsom cited the costs associated with providing mandatory kindergarten, about $268 million annually, which he said was not accounted for in the California budget.

Newsom has supported similar legislation in the past. Last year, he signed a package of education bills, including one transitioning the state to universal pre-K starting in the 2025-26 school year. But the state’s Department of Finance opposed the mandatory kindergarten bill, stating it would strain funds by adding up to 20,000 new public school students.

Proponents of mandatory kindergarten say it could help close the academic opportunity gap for low-income students and students of color, as well as helping children develop important social skills before the 1st grade. The bill was introduced after K-12 attendance rates dropped during the pandemic and some students struggled with online learning.

Kindergarten enrollment in California dropped nearly 12% in the 2020-21 academic year compared to the previous year, according to the state Department of Education. Nationwide, public school enrollment dropped by 3 percent in 2020-21 compared to the previous school year, with preschool and kindergarten enrollment dropping at higher rates, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Samantha Fee, of Citrus Heights, said her 7-year-old son could solve practically any math equation during the 2020-21 school year, while he attended kindergarten online. But by the end of the school year, he still couldn’t read and didn’t know all his letters.

She said the family made the difficult decision to have her son, who attends Golden Empire, repeat kindergarten to prepare him for first grade.

“They learn a lot in that first year — how to sit at their desks, and how to raise their hands and all that they’re expected to know in the first grade,” Fee said. “Without kindergarten, they don’t have that.”

Research from the Economic Policy Institute shows that disparities in academic opportunity begin as early as kindergarten. Children who develop their social and emotional skills as they reach kindergarten age can be more likely to go to college, according to a 2015 study by the American Public Health Association.

Kindergarten readiness improvements for second straight year Capitolnewsillinois.com

The latest Kindergarten Individual Development Survey shows there has been steady improvement over the last two years in the percentage of children entering kindergarten ready to learn. (Credit: Illinois State Board of Education).

Latest KIDS report shows significant racial, economic disparities

Capitol News Illinois
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SPRINGFIELD — The number of Illinois children entering kindergarten who are fully prepared to start school grew for the second consecutive year in 2019, a possible indication that the state’s increased spending on early childhood education is paying off.

But the latest kindergarten readiness report, released Monday by the Illinois State Board of Education, also showed that more than one-third of all students who entered kindergarten last year were unprepared across all three developmental areas that the state tries to measure.

“As a former kindergarten teacher, I believe that it is important to do everything possible to support Illinois children in their critical early years,” State Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala said in a news release. “I want every child in the state to enter kindergarten with the cognitive skills to read, remember, pay attention, and solve problems, and the social-emotional skills to communicate, connect with others, display kindness, and cope with challenges.”

The numbers come from the third annual Kindergarten Individual Development Survey, or KIDS, a tool the state developed to allow school districts to use a uniform system of measuring a child’s development across three key areas — social and emotional, language and literacy, and math.

Under the program, kindergarten teachers are supposed to observe their pupils during the first 40 days of school using 14 different measurements to determine their readiness for school.

The latest report showed that 29 percent of the pupils entering kindergarten demonstrated readiness across all three developmental areas. That was up from 26 percent in 2018 and 24 percent in 2017, the first year of the program.

The report also shows there has been steady growth within each of the three development areas. The percentage of kindergarteners demonstrating social and emotional readiness grew to 56 percent, up from 49 percent in 2017; 47 percent demonstrated readiness in language and literacy development, up from 44 percent in 2017; and 35 percent demonstrated readiness in math, up from only 30 percent in 2017.

That same report also showed that 37 percent of last year’s kindergarteners failed to show readiness across any of the three developmental areas. Still, that number was down from 39 percent in 2018 and 42 percent in 2017.

There were significant disparities between various racial and socio-economic groups, although some progress has been made.

For example, among pupils who qualify for free or reduced-price meals, only 20 percent demonstrated readiness across all three categories, although that was up from 18 percent in 2018 and 16 percent in 2017.

Meanwhile, only 14 percent of students from non-English speaking households demonstrated readiness across all three development areas, although that was up from 11 percent in 2018 and 10 percent in 2017.

And while 29 percent of students overall demonstrated readiness across all three categories, only 23 percent of Black students and 17 percent of Hispanics met that benchmark, compared to 35 percent of white and Asian students.

In its news release, ISBE attributed at least some of the growth to increased state spending on early childhood education. The budget that Gov. JB Pritzker proposed and lawmakers approved last year included an additional $50 million in the state’s Early Childhood Block Grant program to improve the quality and expand access to preschool programs.

That money enabled 10,000 more students to attend early childhood programs last year before entering kindergarten, ISBE said. It also helped 655 programs increase the quality of their services.

Another $50 million was added in the current fiscal year’s budget, but due to revenue shortfalls that have resulted from the recession brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, state budget officials have said it remains uncertain whether the entire budget will be funded.

ISBE did note, however, that Pritzker has set aside $270 million for a Child Care Recovery Grant program, the largest such program in the nation. He has also dedicated $10 million from the Governor’s Education Emergency Relief Fund to support early learning programs in areas hardest hit by the pandemic.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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Peter Hancock

Peter Hancock

Peter was one of the founding reporters with Capitol News Illinois. A native of the Kansas City area, he has degrees in political science and education from the University of Kansas.

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