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Kindergarten bill hits governor's desk

Measure would benefit younger students, who sometimes struggle to keep up.

September 15, 2010|By Andrew Shortall, andrew.shortall@latimes.com

Kindergartners across the state may be held back even before their first day of school if Senate Bill 1381 clears its final hurdle.

Senate Bill 1381, authored by state Sen. Joe Simitian, would change the age requirement for students entering kindergarten. Currently, students must be 5 years old by Dec. 2 of the school year. If the bill becomes law, the cutoff date would gradually take a three-month step back to Sept. 1.

The California State Assembly approved the bill, which is also referred to as the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010, on a 21-15 vote. Next stop for the legislation is Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk. He has 30 days to approve or veto the legislation.

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Pending Schwarzenegger's approval, the bill would change the cutoff date to Nov. 1 in 2012, Oct. 1 in 2013 and then cement it at Sept. 1 in 2014.

"Today's kindergarten classroom is a much different place than most of us experienced," said Simitian, senator from California's 11th District, which includes the counties of Santa Clara, San Mateo and Santa Cruz. "We're placing real academic demands on our kids, and the youngest are struggling to keep up. The evidence shows that giving these younger kindergarteners an extra year can make a big difference in their long-term success."

Debbie Bacino, the director of La Cañada Preschool, agrees with Simitian, saying that about 10 or 15 years ago, a shift occurred in kindergarten's curriculum. Today, kindergarten is more like what first grade once was, she said.

"The bar has been raised as to what we're teaching in kindergarten," Bacino said. "It's more academic and less learning through play. While that has occurred, parents want their kids to be developmentally ready for kindergarten and this bill is helping that occur. I think the kids win with this bill."

The bill aims to have students better prepared for when they enter the public-school system.

"There is a growing body of research that seems to show that for many kids, starting the public-school system in kindergarten before [being] developmentally ready can create ongoing negative repercussions if the child feels they started out on the wrong foot in school," said Joel Peterson La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board Member. "This type of feeling can have long-term ramifications. This bill seems to try to address that."

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