BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    




                          SENATE COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION
                               Gloria Romero, Chair
                            2009-2010 Regular Session
                                         

          BILL NO:       SB 1381
          AUTHOR:        Simitian
          AMEDED:        March 23, 2010
          FISCAL COMM:   Yes            HEARING DATE:  April 14, 2010
          URGENCY:       No             CONSULTANT:Beth Graybill

           SUBJECT  :  Kindergarten: age of admission.
          
           SUMMARY  

          This bill revises the age of admission to kindergarten and  
          first grade by one month in each of three years so that in  
          2014 and later years, a child will have to be 5 years old on  
          or before September 1 in order to attend kindergarten.  This  
          bill also states the intent of the Legislature that one half  
          of the savings generated from the revised entry dates be used  
          for purposes of expanding the state preschool program.  

           BACKGROUND  

          Existing law requires a child to be admitted to kindergarten  
          at the beginning of a school year if the child will be 5  
          years old on or before December 2 of that school year.   
          Current law allows a school district to admit, on a  
          case-by-case basis, children who turn 5 at any time during  
          the school year provided that a) the parent gives permission,  
          b) the district determines early admittance is in the best  
          interest of the child, and c) the parent or guardian is given  
          information regarding the advantages and disadvantages of  
          early admittance.  (Education Code  48000)  

          Existing law requires a child to be admitted to the first  
          grade of an elementary school during the first month of a  
          school year if the child will have his or her sixth birthday  
          on or before December 2, of that school year.  (EC  48010)  

          Existing law does not require a pupil to enroll in  
          kindergarten but does subject each person between the ages of  
          6 and 18 years of age to compulsory full-time education,  
          unless exempted pursuant to prescribed provisions of law.   
          (EC 48200)  






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          Existing law establishes the California State Preschool  
          Program for purposes of providing part-day and full-day  
          educational development program to three and four year old  
          children.  (EC 8235)  

          Existing law (AB 25, Mazzoni, Chapter 1022, Statutes of 1999)  
          establishes the Kindergarten Readiness Pilot Program for the  
          purpose of providing incentive funding to districts to change  
          the entry date of kindergarten to September 1 and to provide  
          prekindergarten education for children to enhance their  
          readiness for kindergarten.  To date, the Legislature has not  
          appropriated funding for this program.  (EC 48005.10 et.  
          seq.)  

           ANALYSIS  

           This bill  :

          1)   Phases in new minimum entry-ages for kindergarten.  The  
               bill requires a child to be admitted to kindergarten at  
               the beginning of a school year or a later time in the  
               same year if the child will have his or her fifth  
               birthday on or before one of the following dates:  

               a)        December 2 of the 2011-12 school year.  
               b)        November 1 of the 2012-13 school year.  
               c)        October 1 of the 2013-14 school year.  
               d)        September 1 of the 2014-15 school year and  
                    each school year thereafter.  

          2)   States the intent of the Legislature to appropriate in  
               the annual Budget Act one-half of the savings resulting  
               from changes enacted by this bill for purposes of  
               expanding the state preschool program.  

          3)   Specifies children who have their fifth birthday on or  
               before the dates described above may be admitted to a  
               pre-kindergarten summer program operated by a school  
               district.  

          4)   Phases in new entry-ages for admission to first grade to  
               conform to the new entry ages for kindergarten.  

           STAFF COMMENTS  

           1)   Need for the bill  :  In a majority of states, children  
               must turn five by September 1st in order to start  





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               kindergarten.  In California, children can start  
               kindergarten as young as four years and nine months.   
               According to the author's office, California's December  
               2 cutoff date allows too many children to enter  
               kindergarten before they are developmentally ready,  
               which may contribute to low student achievement.  By  
               establishing a later start date, SB 1381 could help  
               ensure that more kindergartners are developmentally  
               ready to handle the academic demands of today's  
               kindergarten while creating an estimated $700 million in  
               savings due to a smaller cohort of students that would  
               transition through the K-12 system.  

           2)   Age of admission practice and policy  .  State law and  
               parental practice influence the age at which a child  
               begins school.  In recent years, an increased focus on  
               pupil achievement and school accountability, along with  
               eroding fiscal resources have prompted many states to  
               move up the entry age for kindergarten.  California's  
               cut off date, however, remains one of the latest in the  
               nation.  According to the Education Commission of the  
               States (ECS), California is one of four states, in  
               addition to Connecticut, Michigan and Vermont, with a  
               cut-off date after December 1.  Studies indicate that  
               about five to ten percent of parents voluntarily delay  
               the start of kindergarten for children who are otherwise  
               eligible to attend (often referred to as "redshirting")  
               in order to increase the child's chances for academic  
               and social success.  

          While redshirting tends to raise the average age of  
               kindergartners, some researchers have suggested that it  
               contributes to the achievement gap because it is most  
               often practiced by middle class and affluent parents who  
               can afford to provide their "young fives" with  
               pre-school to prepare them for school.  It is unclear  
               whether changing the start date to September 1 will  
               reduce the practice of redshirting.  Will a child with  
               an August birthday be the new "young five?"  

          In recent years, the California Performance Review, the  
               Governor's Committee on Education Excellence, the  
               Legislative Analyst, and numerous legislative proposals  
               have recommended requiring a child to turn five before  
               entering kindergarten.  In addition benefiting children,  
               changing California's kindergarten start date could  
               result in more equitable comparisons on national  





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               achievement tests such as the National Assessment of  
               Educational Progress (NAEP).  Given increasing federal  
               accountability requirements and recent efforts to  
               develop common core standards across states, aligning  
               California's kindergarten start date with other states  
               could provide policymakers with a more realistic means  
               of comparing the progress of California students with  
               those in other states.

           3)   Academic effects  .  Research indicates that a number of  
               factors are associated with school success including  
               socioeconomic status, English language fluency at school  
               entry, access to preschool, and the developmental  
               maturity of a pupil when he or she enters school.   
               Numerous studies have explored school readiness and the  
               age of entry into kindergarten.  

          Although the studies are somewhat limited because of the  
               variability in the amount and quality of preschool,  
               family characteristics, and a child's age relative to  
               the cut-off date, some research suggests that children  
               who are older when they start school enjoy more school  
               success.  A 2004 study by the RAND Corporation suggests  
               that entering kindergarten later can significantly boost  
               test scores at entry, especially for children from low  
               socioeconomic backgrounds.  The RAND study also suggests  
               that test score gains persist for these children through  
               the early school years.  



               A 2008 paper published by the Public Policy Institute of  
               California (PPIC) suggests that all things remaining  
               equal, moving the entrance cutoff date to September 1  
               would likely boost average scores on the California  
               Standards Tests, and NAEP.  However, PPIC notes that  
               research indicates that a student's relative age at  
               entry is an important predictor of academic success:   
               Students who are expected to be the oldest in their  
               class score higher on achievement tests all the way  
               through high school than do students expected to be the  
               youngest.  PPIC concludes by noting that "the effect of  
               an entrance policy change on the achievement gap depends  
               on the extent to which it reduces academic redshirting  
               and the extent to which it results in further  
               disparities in skill acquisition prior to kindergarten  
               entry."  





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               Yet a study by the Society for Research in Child  
               Development (Stipek, 2002) suggests that the quality of  
               a child's school experience makes a greater contribution  
               to academic achievement than does delaying the age in  
               which the child begins kindergarten.  In contrast to the  
               RAND study, Stipek notes that children from low-income  
               families, who may already be at risk of starting school  
               behind their middle-class peers, may be further  
               disadvantaged by delaying the start date for  
               kindergarten, particularly if they are developmentally  
               "ready to learn."  Stipek asks "Are [these children]  
               "better served by having more time out of school or by  
               having more time in an instructional environment?"  To  
               the extent that SB 1381 would enable at least some  
               low-income five year olds to participate in the state  
               preschool program, the measure could help more children  
               develop the foundational skills needed for kindergarten.  
                

           4)   Socioeconomic effects   While the RAND study suggests  
               that children who are older when they enter kindergarten  
               experience faster gains in test scores over time  
               compared to children who enter kindergarten at a younger  
               age, the study also recognizes that for families with  
               children with later birthdays, the extra time often  
               translates to extra child care/preschool costs.  Because  
               these costs can be significant and may  
               disproportionately impact low-income families, the RAND  
               study suggests that policymakers view entrance age  
               policies and childcare policies as a package.  

          While SB 1381 expresses legislative intent to direct half of  
               the savings that would come from enrolling fewer  
               students, to the state preschool program, it is not  
               clear how much funding would be needed to accommodate  
               the increased demand.  The phase-in process specified by  
               SB 1381 could result in some 100,000 children needing an  
               extra year of childcare/preschool over the three-year  
               phase in period.  While not all of these children would  
               qualify for state preschool, the increase in demand  
               would add to the current demand for this program.  The  
               California Department of Education (CDE) indicates that  
               there are currently 87,000 children on the waiting list  
               for the state preschool program.  To effectively address  
               the demand created by delaying the start of  
               kindergarten, it may be appropriate to fund the state  





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               preschool program at a level sufficient to clear the  
               existing waiting list and accommodate the low-income  
               children who would otherwise be enrolled in  
               kindergarten. 

               The State Preschool Program was established to serve  
               three and four year old children.  Without a change to  
               this statute, it is not clear that five year olds  
               ineligible for kindergarten would be eligible to  
               participate in state preschool programs.  Moreover, it  
               is not clear how they would be prioritized for  
               participation.  

               Recommended amendments:  

               Technical amendment:  for greater clarification,  
               specifying the intent of the Legislature to direct half  
               of the savings to the California State Preschool Program  
               pursuant to  8235 of the Education Code.  

               Add language expressing the intent of the Legislature to  
               allow four and five year olds who are not eligible for  
               kindergarten to participate in the California State  
               Preschool Program pursuant to  8235 of the Education  
               Code.  

           5)   Fiscal impact  .  The Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) has  
               recommended that the Legislature change the kindergarten  
               start date from December 2 to September 1 beginning in  
               the 2011-12 school year.  Although it is unclear how the  
               change would impact the amount the state is required to  
               spend on schools in 2011-12, the LAO estimates that  
               changing the start date to September 1 could reduce  
               kindergarten enrollment by approximately 100,000  
               students in that year, which could free up roughly $700  
               million from revenue limits and categorical programs,  
               which could be redirected for other purposes such as  
               subsidized preschool for affected low-income families.  

          By moving up the start date by one month each year, SB 1381  
               would phase in the estimated $700 million in savings  
               over a three-year period.  This savings could be less  
               depending on how many potential kindergartners are  
               "redshirted."  It is possible that there may be no  
               savings in the first year because declining enrollment  
               provisions in revenue limits.  Under current law,  
               districts are funded at the greater of their current or  





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               prior year Average Daily Attendance (ADA).  To ensue the  
               savings are captured during the first year the  
               enrollment date changes, the bill should include  
               language waiving the declining enrollment provision of  
               law for the proportion of "lost" ADA attributable to the  
               change in entrance date in 2012-13.  

           6)   Kindergarten Readiness Pilot Program  .  This program was  
               established for the purpose of testing the costs and  
               benefits of changing the entry date for kindergarten.   
               The program would have provided funding to school  
               districts to compensate them for the temporary loss of  
               Average Daily Attendance (ADA) caused by changing  
               kindergarten enrollment dates and required districts to  
               provide pre-kindergarten instruction as a condition of  
               receiving funds.  The purpose was to provide a  
               kindergarten readiness program for the children most at  
               risk of low performance and delaying entry to allow  
               children time to become more developmentally ready to  
               learn.  Because this program was never implemented,  
               there are no data available about the effectiveness of  
               moving the entry-age for kindergarten.  

           7)   Related and prior legislation  .  

                        AB 1967 (Mendoza).  This bill would change the  
                    kindergarten start date to November 2 for 2012-13  
                    school year, October 2 for the 2013-14 school year,  
                    and September 2 for the 2014-15 school year and  
                    each year thereafter.  

                        AB 2759 (Jones, Chapter 308, Statutes of  
                    2008).  This bill consolidated the State Preschool  
                    program and the portion of general child care and  
                    development program that serves three and four-year  
                    olds into one preschool program, establishing the  
                    California State Preschool Program.  

                        AB 1236 (Mullin, 2008).  This bill would have  
                    established a two-year kindergarten pilot program.   
                    This bill was held by the Assembly Appropriations  
                    Committee.  

                        AB 683 (S. Runner, 2008).  This bill proposed  
                    to move up the date by three months by which a  
                    child must be five years old to enroll in  
                    kindergarten and six years old to enroll in first  





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                    grade.  This bill was held by the Assembly  
                    Appropriations Committee.  

                        AB 2596 (G. Runner, 2006).  This bill proposed  
                    to move up the date by three months by which a  
                    child must be five years old to enroll in  
                    kindergarten and six years old to enroll in first  
                    grade.  This bill would have also required savings  
                    to be allocated to CDE to provide reimbursements  
                    for child care and development services for  
                    low-income families.  This bill was held by the  
                    Assembly Appropriations Committee.  

                        SB 1764 (G. Runner, 2006).  This bill would  
                    have changed the age of admission to kindergarten,  
                    but required any savings realized by these changes  
                    to be appropriated to increase access to preschool  
                    programs for at-risk 4 year olds.  This bill was  
                    held by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.  

           SUPPORT
           
          None received.

           OPPOSITION
           
          None received.