Governor Newsom vetoes mandatory kindergarten law

By SOPHIE AUSTIN | The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — Beyond what they learn academically in kindergarten, students are learning daily routines: how to care for classroom materials and how to be kind to their peers, according to Golden Empire kindergarten teacher Carla Randazzo Elementary School.

While developing these skills has become more difficult for students going to school online during the pandemic, sometimes a student entering first grade at Golden Empire may not go to kindergarten at all, Randazzo said. Nearly two-thirds of students at the Sacramento school are learning English.

“These kids are just starting to have to climb,” she said. “They need a lot of support to be successful.”

Randazzo has always thought it “special” that kindergarten isn’t mandatory in California. For now, however, California will not join 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, a public or private school — before d entering first grade in a public school.

As he has done with other recent legislative vetoes, Newsom cited the costs associated with providing compulsory kindergarten, around $268 million a year, which he said were not being taken into account. accounted for in the California budget.

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

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

Kindergarten enrollment in California fell nearly 12% in the 2020-21 school year from the previous year, according to the state Department of Education. Nationally, public school enrollment fell 3% in 2020-21 from 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 virtually any math equation in the 2020-21 school year while attending kindergarten online. But at 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, how to raise their hands, and everything else they’re supposed to know in first year,” Fee said. “Without kindergarten, they don’t have that.”

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

“The pandemic has resulted in a startling decline in K-12 enrollment, raising concerns about a growing opportunity gap,” said Jessica Lall, president and CEO of the Central City Association of Los Angeles.

While legislation mandating kindergarten passed overwhelmingly in both houses of the Legislature, San Diego County Sen. Brian Jones opposed it, saying the state should instead focus on education reform.

Newsom also vetoed separate legislation that would have required every kindergarten school to offer at least one full-day class option, saying it would “create one-time and ongoing costs of hundreds of millions of dollars”, noting that the 2022-23 budget included $4 billion in funding for expanded learning opportunities.


Sophie Austin is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues. Follow Sophie Austin on Twitter.

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