SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – By the start of the 2022-23 school year, all public and charter school districts in California may need to have full-day kindergarten. Right now, districts can choose to offer full- or half-day kindergarten; however, students aren’t required to attend school in the state until first grade.

Assembly Bill 197 would require 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.” It would go into effect for the 2022-23 school year.

The bill passed the Assembly Thursday and goes to the Senate next.

According to the bill’s author, “Full-day kindergarten programs close achievement gaps between young children from minority and low-income families and their peers who reside in more affluent areas. By providing a solid foundation of learning to children from all backgrounds, full-day kindergarten programs ensure all students’ academic, social, and emotional success”

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.”

The 2018-19 budget provided $100 million for kindergarten facility grants, and the 2019-20 budget earmarks an additional $750 million for the same purpose.

As of the 2017-18 school year, 29 percent of districts, with an estimated 131,000 students, are still on half-day schedules, with 19 percent offering only half-day and 10 percent offering a mix of half- and full-day. The average half-day length is 3.5 hours, while the average full-day length is 5.6 hours per day.

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.”

Thirteen states, plus the District of Columbia, require full-day kindergarten.

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