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Debate on Expansion of Universal Pre-School in CA Begins

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April 1, 2014

In 2010, California changed the date when five-year-olds became eligible for kindergarten. In the process the state also essentially expanded kindergarten to a two-year program. Variously known as universal pre-school or transitional kindergarten, the extra voluntary year focuses on the alphabet, numbers, colors and other basic skills needed for kindergarten, which is now far more academic than in decades past.

SB 837, co-authored by a slew of Democratic State Senators, would provide funding and set standards to significantly expand the program in California.  

The cost to the state may be $2.2 billion when the program is fully implemented in 2019-20 – some say that is low.

How Governor Brown – who is being very careful on using the state’s budget surplus - will react to this expansion of schooling is one question no one knows the answer to yet.

Another unknown: how will faith-based and private schools be treated in the legislation? Many Catholic and other private schools offer excellent pre-school programs but the actual bill language is not clear on several key points, for example, which state department will oversee pre-K programs.

Because education is so critical to the common good, the California Catholic Conference carefully follows education bills and will do so with SB 837. And, of course, the Catholic Church educates more than 200,000 children in elementary and high schools throughout the state.

More information on the importance of a quality education, the critical role of parental involvement in education and the Church’s commitment to elementary and secondary schools can be found on our Education page. For more information on SB 837, visit the California Department of Education, Transitional Kindergarten FAQ. SB 837 is scheduled to receive its first hearing on April 9, 2014.