Q: What does AB 1444 do?
A: It will require all youngsters to complete kindergarten before starting first grade. The bill is sponsored by California’s teachers – the California Teachers Association. The bill was written by two long-time educators who serve in the state legislature: Assembly Education Chair Joan Buchanan and Assembly Member Shirley Weber.
Q: Isn’t kindergarten attendance already mandatory?
A: No, it isn’t. More than 90 percent of youngsters are attending free, high quality kindergarten provided by our public schools – but nearly 10% are not.
Q: Why don’t all parents and guardians send their children to free, high quality public kindergarten?
A: A major reason is the misperception that kindergarten isn’t important. Some parents and guardians have come to that conclusion because kindergarten – unlike first grade and higher grades – is not mandatory, it must not be important. Still others believe kindergarten provides children with little more than play time with clay and crayons.
Q: Why is kindergarten attendance important?
A: Because kindergarten gives youngsters the basic skills they need to survive and excel throughout the rest of their academic careers. Students learn the reading and math basics and they learn how to learn effectively, all vital educational skills.
Q: What else does AB 1444 do?
A: It addresses the racial achievement gap. Studies have found that a disproportionate number of students who start first grade without completing kindergarten are minority youngsters, English learners, and children living at or below the poverty level. Kindergarten attendance will help them gain the skills that will help bridge the achievement gap. Without kindergarten, these children will start behind other youngsters and never catch up, studies show.
Q: Won’t AB 1444 force children out of private and religious kindergarten classes and force them to attend public schools?
A: No. AB 1444 will simply require that students complete kindergarten before they start first grade. They may attend private or religious institutions providing kindergarten classes.
Q: Won’t implementing AB 1444 cost a lot of money?
A: No. Estimates cite the bill’s costs as negligible. The higher high school graduation rates that will result from greater student success tied to their head start in kindergarten will result in costs savings to the state that will far outweigh any costs tied to AB 1444.
Q: What can I do to help get the bill through the legislature?
A: Contact your Assembly Member and state Senator and urge them to vote for AB 1444 (Buchanan/Weber). It’s as simple as that.