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) SB 1381 Page 2 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 SB 1381 Page 3 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 SB 1381 Page 4 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." SB 1381 Page 5 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 SB 1381 Page 6 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 SB 1381 Page 7 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 SB 1381 Page 8 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.