Sending children to kindergarten can be eye-opening. As much as we'd like to think that the start of a child's official education represents a level playing field, that may not always be the case. What kids are exposed to in the years before they enroll in kindergarten matters—but not everyone has access to solid pre-kindergarten education.
That may be changing soon in California, though. Back in December of 2018, Assemblyman Kevin McCarty authored the Pre-K Act for All Act of 2019, a bill that aims to make preschool more accessible for low-income residents. Last week, that bill was passed by The California Assembly.
This is a huge step towards making the act, which proposes to build upon existing state-funded pre-K programs, a reality. Next up, it will appear before Senate for a vote.
If passed, the bill will go into effect for the 2020-2021 school year. It will allow state preschools with at least 70% of students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals to open remaining seats up for kids who were otherwise ineligible for such programs. What does this mean, exactly? Well, it could be a game-changer for a lot for families who haven't qualified for this type of program—but couldn't independently afford preschool enrollment—in the past.
"There are too many kids from families that are too rich to qualify for the free [program] but too poor to pay the one to two thousand dollars a month it costs for full-day preschool programs in California," McCarty, who has over 20 years of experience working in education policy, told local news site LAist.
Under this bill, schools would cap classroom allowance at 24 students. It would also establish the California Preschool Teacher Qualification Program, which would support school staff members as they pursue teaching qualifications. Other goals include increasing diversity among school staff and increasing compensation of preschool teachers.
"...When I saw the research, and really dug into the issues, [I realized] we have this crazy achievement gap for so many kids in California, specifically kids in underrepresented neighborhoods and communities of color," says McCarty in an interview with LAist.
"We as a society had thought for many years, 'Oh, kids start kindergarten at the starting point in a race and it's all equal.' But we realized that kids now are starting kindergarten way behind. And so it's creating a big, big problem in our education system."
We'll have to wait and see if this bill is officially put into effect, but it definitely represents a significant step towards an important change, one that will affect so many California families.