By Lemor Abrams

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – All California school districts would need to have full-day kindergarten by the 2021-22 school year if a new bill becomes law.

Currently, districts who offer kindergarten can enroll children in a half-day program. Assembly Bill 197 would change that by requiring districts to provide a “full‑day kindergarten (that) is the same number of minutes per school day that is offered to pupils in 1st grade.”

According to the bill language, “Full-day kindergarten should provide time to meet the developmentally based instructional needs of the whole child. It should encompass all curricular areas, including visual and performing arts and physical education, as outlined in the state-adopted curriculum frameworks.”

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Bob Maclay’s daughter was enrolled in half-day kindergarten. His biggest concern wasn’t who would watch her the rest of the time. It was whether she’d be playing catch-up when she got to first grade.

“You don’t want to see your child fall behind the others,” Maclay said.

One grandmother said school structure has allowed her daughter to raise well-behaved kids. The alternative for them, mom says, would be to stay home and watch tv.

“They get to spend time with their friends. And plus they learn and spend more time with the teachers,” said Shazia Yasin.

Schools with half-day kindergarten often offer a morning and afternoon session, which use the same classrooms. In order to address the lack of space many of these schools would have if they were to switch to a full-day kindergarten program, the bill states: “full-day kindergarten must be a priority for school districts and reserving or obtaining space for the full-day kindergarten program must take precedence over all non-class requirements.”

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Governor Gavin Newsom did address full-day kindergarten in his budget announcement last week saying he would like it to be offered statewide.

California Assemblywoman Shirley Weber introduced the legislation the same day as Newsom’s budget announcement. Currently, 25 percent of districts are still on half-day schedules.

In a statement, Weber said, “Without this critical skill, students have a significantly higher likelihood of dropping out of school altogether and ending up in the correctional system or dependent on social services.”

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Critics, however, say the issue comes down to parental choice.

In 2014, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a similar proposal, saying he preferred “to let parents determine what is best for their children, rather than mandate an entirely new grade level.”

Maclay still thinks academics are more valuable and hopes it’ll be the key to advancing full-day kindergarten, as long as the kids have fun.

The California Department of Education has not yet taken a public position on the bill and area school districts would not comment on the pending legislation.


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