SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A proposed Senate bill would expand California’s transitional Kindergarten program to include all 4-year-old’s. Currently only 4-year-old’s born between September 2 and December 2 are eligible.

Transitional Kindergarten was created in 2010 after the cutoff birth date to start kindergarten changed from December 2 to September 1. The program is meant to serve as the first year of a 2-year kindergarten experience for those too young to begin traditional kindergarten. Each elementary or unified school district must offer TK classes and teachers use a modified kindergarten curriculum.

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Senate Bill 837, introduced by Senator Bill Dodd, would change the age requirement starting in the 2020-21 school year. That year, a child with a birthday between September 2 and February 28 would be admitted to TK. In 2021-22, the dates would expand to September 2 until May 31. By the 2022-23 school year, any child who has his or her fifth birthday between September 2 and the following September 1 would be admitted to TK.

In 2014, a version of Senate Bill 837 would have expended transitional kindergarten to all 4-year-old’s, but it was revised to include only low-income 4-year-old’s.

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Research shows those enrolled in TK have higher test scores, more developed social skills and more confidence. However, according to Senator Dodd, about 170,000 children who are eligible for the program can’t enroll because there aren’t enough spots available. It is not mandatory for students to enroll in transitional kindergarten.

The Superintendent of schools in Napa, Dr. Barbara Nemko, said: “By age 3, children from low-income families have heard 30 million fewer words than children from higher-income families. This gap translates to children entering kindergarten with a deficit of two to three years. And this deficit stays with them throughout their school careers.”

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The Universal Preschool Bill passed the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday.