California May Soon Make Kindergarten Mandatory
It is now up to Gov. Gavin Newsome to either approve or veto a bill that would make kindergarten mandatory in California.
Kindergarten and preschool isn’t mandatory in most areas, but if California lawmakers have their way they will legally require students to enter the school system at younger ages. Not only has this been known to lead students to be misdiagnosed for ADHD, but the current state of California’s education system lacks the success rates to ensure that this endeavor will lead students toward positive learning experiences. This debate was sparked by low kindergarten enrollment rates during and after the pandemic, also driving spending patterns into the conversation.
If this goes into effect, state officials are expecting a new class of kindergarten students to be enrolled at higher rates. Unfortunately, this may not solve the root of the state’s problems. While California education officials are working to draw students back to the system, many have overlooked the very reasons that families have decided to seek alternative education options.
Previous attempts to mandate kindergarten have failed in the state. It was last vetoed in a similar bill by the previous Governor, Jerry Brown in 2014. At the time it was determined that parental rights were more important than the state’s desire to educate younger students. Now, California Senate Bill 70 has reintroduced the topic into education discussions, and another bill is being proposed to mandate that all schools offer full-day kindergarten classes instead of half-day programs.
California has recently passed its largest education budget in state history. Despite this, they are serving less students, who show up to class less often. The area lost some 1.8% of students this year and 2.6% last year. In addition, students have been chronically absent 40% of the time. It’s clear to say that if these schools don’t start drawing in more students, taxpayers are going to wonder what they’re paying for and demand that expensive spending habits be curbed. Enter the kindergarten mandate.
19 States currently require students to attend kindergarten. Those in favor of the bill hope that this will help parents recognize the benefits of early childhood education. Opponents are quick to point out the many drawbacks, namely increased behavioral issues and misdiagnosis of ADHD which put a stigma on young children who are just not mature enough to sit in class and follow standardized lessons. The California Homeschool Network strongly opposes the legislation noting how it limits choice and puts further unnecessary restrictions on families.
California schools are failing students. An early 2022 study revealed that 8th-grade students are only reaching math proficiency rates at 5th grade levels. While many are quick to blame the COVID-19 lockdowns, these failures have been a problem since before the pandemic. Parents looking to give their children the best kindergarten education available may look at plummeting state success rates and seek opportunities elsewhere, especially based on how the state handled its COVID relief funds.
American public schools were given billions in taxpayer dollars to address school health concerns and other pandemic-related issues. California officials decided to utilize this money for “ethnic studies,” teaching LGBTQ+ issues, and ensuring that teachers are trained in “implicit bias.” It has also been revealed by a recent California public school spending analysis report that the state failed to utilize their COVID-relief money to address learning loss brought on by lockdowns and other distancing mandates. While California may be eager to enroll more kindergartners by requiring that parents begin children’s education earlier, the state has yet to prove that the current system is adequately educating its current students.
Whether kindergarten becomes mandatory or not, the California education system is facing many changes. How these affect student progress and success rates is uncertain. For now, families must choose what is best for them and let that determine their education decisions.