California Lawmaker Proposes Mandatory Full-Day Kindergarten Across the State

January 18, 2019 Updated: January 18, 2019

California could mandate school districts across the state to provide full-day kindergarten by 2021 under legislation proposed on Jan. 10.

Bill AB 197 requires school districts to offer a full-day kindergarten program with the same amount of school time as 1st grade, which is about 230 minutes per day.

“All California public school kindergarten pupils deserve the opportunity to maximize their growth, development, and success at this critical time in their developmental process,” the bill reads.

“Full-day kindergarten should provide time to meet the developmentally based instructional needs of the whole child. It should encompass all curricular areas, including visual and performing arts and physical education, as outlined in the state-adopted curriculum frameworks.”

The bill was introduced by Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) on the same day Gov. Newsom revealed his state budget was allocating more than $800 million to establish “universal full-day kindergarten.”

The budget cites a survey conducted by the Department of Education showing that 22 percent of school districts offer only part-day kindergarten programs, which reflects more than 1,600 school sites. The budget suggested a lack of facilities as the main obstacle preventing the schools from offering full-day kindergarten.

California is not the only state considering the implementation of full-day kindergarten program. Colorado Governor Jared Polis also proposed a similar plan with a cost of $227 million.

In fact, the idea of full-time kindergarten isn’t something new to California. The author of AB 197 passed a similar bill (AB 1719) back in 2014, which required a full-time kindergarten program by 2017 although it stopped short of mandating full-time kindergarten if the district voted to postpone it.

“Students are being held to more rigorous academic standards under the K-12 Common Core curriculum,” Weber said in a statement in 2014. “A full-day kindergarten program would provide students—in particular, those children unable to attend preschool—an opportunity to strengthen the foundational skills necessary to succeed in school.”

California’s current law requires kindergartens to offer students at least 180 minutes of instruction per school day without counting lunchtime. An assessment by the Assembly Committee on Education of AB 1719 in 2014 found that although the full-time program has a requirement of 230 minutes, full-time kindergartens typically offered over 300 minutes of instruction.

“A survey of full-day kindergarten in California conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California in 2009 found that, in the 2007-08 school year, 43 percent of kindergarteners attended full-day kindergarten, with lower performing and economically disadvantaged schools more likely to offer full-day programs,” the assessment read.

The assessment also said that the increased time for students didn’t load more burden on the teachers, as most of the kindergarten teachers already work a full-day and that school districts shouldn’t have a problem hiring new teachers if needed.

AB 1719 was signed into law in 2014.

Another bill pushed by Weber in 2014 sought to require that all schoolchildren in the state attend kindergarten before entering the first grade.

“The voluntary status of kindergarten allows parents to delay their child’s entrance into school,” said Weber, “leaving students unprepared for the educational environment when they enroll in first grade.”

That bill passed the state legislature but was vetoed by then-Governor Brown, who had argued it is better “to let parents determine what is best for their children rather than mandate an entirely new grade level.”

The same argument is being presented by critics of Weber’s new bill. No public position on the matter has been announced by the California Department of Education as of yet, local media have reported.

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