Following a statewide decline in kindergarten enrollment, a California senator proposed a bill to make kindergarten mandatory for all students.
Senate Bill 70 was passed in the Senate and now waits for approval from Governor Gavin Newsom.
That decline really became prominent during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when schools were already facing so many challenges. This bill points out the heightened learning gaps that come with missing kindergarten and hopes it can close those gaps.
Missing just 10% of kindergarten school days lowers a student’s academic performance when they hit 1st grade, according to the National Education Association. It's a statistic that Senator Susan Rubio says could have a lasting effect on a student's long-term education.
"As a public school teacher for 17 years, I have witnessed the detrimental impact on young students who miss out on fundamental early education," Sen. Rubio said. "The voluntary participation for kindergarten leaves students unprepared for the educational environment they will encounter in elementary school.”
Rick Mayfield, Director of Elementary Learning and Achievement for San Luis Coastal Unified School District, agrees that year before kindergarten is essential.
"The sooner we can get them, the better," Mayfield said. "Academic rigor has risen over the years, in the last 5-7 especially".
Both San Luis Coastal and Lucia Mar unified school districts have reported a decrease in kindergarten enrollment. Lucia Mar reported the declining K-12 enrollments since the 2015-16 school year average 150 students per year. Their kindergarten numbers dropped from 680 to 577 since 2018.
But parents that are in favor of kindergarten agree the year is crucial for long-term success.
"A lot of it, I think, is to learn how to interact with other kids and that starts prepping them for things they’re going to be doing their entire lives," said Rebekah Swigger, a mother of two.
The bill proposed by Senator Rubio is waiting on a signature from Governor Gavin Newsom and if signed, the bill would take effect in the 2024-25 school year.