Skip to content

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                  
August 31, 2010

For More Information, Contact:
Melissa Figueroa (916) 651-4011
Phil Yost (650) 688-6384


SACRAMENTO – Aiming to give children a better chance to succeed from their first day in school, the California Legislature has approved Senate Bill 1381, the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010 by State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto). The measure increases the minimum age for entering kindergarten from 5 years old by December 2 of the school year to 5 years old by September 1 of the school year.

For children born between September 2 and December 2, a new Transitional Kindergarten would be established. Providing a curriculum appropriate for these “young fives,” it would be the first year of a two-year kindergarten for those students, and will be funded by the money that would have been spent on regular kindergarten.

“This is good for kids on two fronts,” said Simitian. “We start kids when they’re ready to succeed in school, and for younger children we provide a ‘get ready’ year of instruction as well.”

The bill is supported by policy experts and education advocates across the state, who have observed that children who begin school too young often have less academic and social preparation.  They struggle to keep pace with their much older classmates, and never catch up. Senate Bill 1381 now moves to the Governor’s desk.

Under current law, children entering kindergarten must be 5 by December 2. Senate Bill 1381 would phase in the new age requirement by moving the cutoff date one month a year for three years, beginning in 2012. 

“Today’s kindergarten classroom is a much different place than most of us experienced,” said Simitian. “We’re placing real academic demands on our kids, and the youngest are struggling to keep up. The evidence shows that giving these younger kindergarteners an extra year can make a big difference in their long term success.”

A 2008 report by the Public Policy Institute of California reviewed 14 recent rigorous studies on how entrance age affects student outcomes in the short and long term.  The report suggests that “increasing California’s entry age will likely have a number of benefits, including boosting student achievement test scores.”  Several of these studies also suggest that older students are less likely to be retained or to be diagnosed with a learning disability, while having a higher likelihood of attending college and earning higher wages. 

“This change in the kindergarten entry age enables us to redirect our limited school resources in a way that will make them most effective in providing children with the level of education most appropriate to them,” said Simitian. “We should seize this opportunity to expand kindergarten at no additional cost to K-12 education. It just makes sense, educationally and financially.”

California is one of just four states with a cut-off date later than December 1.  Approximately one-quarter of California’s children start kindergarten before age 5.

Under SB 1381, a child born after September 1 may still be admitted to kindergarten on a case-by-case basis, if the parent or guardian applies for early admission and the school district agrees that it would be in the best interest of the child.

Educators in Simitian’s district (San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties) have been outspoken supporters of the September 1 cut-off date. In March of last year, 289 teachers signed a petition to Simitian requesting the change. 

“As teachers, we see students who enter school at 4 1/2 struggling every day in the classroom,” said Natalie Bivas, a reading specialist in Palo Alto and one of the petition organizers. Diana Argenti, a kindergarten teacher at Walter Hays School in Palo Alto, partnered with Bivas to circulate the petition. “If we’re teaching things too young,” said Argenti, “in the long term it can cause social and emotional issues.”

California’s non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, the California Performance Review, and the Governor’s Committee on Education Excellence have each called for an earlier kindergarten cut-off date.

The California Preschool Business Advisory Council wrote in support of the bill: “Given the mounting evidence that high-quality early learning can help close the readiness and achievement gaps and lead to higher graduation rates and better prepared workers, we believe this bill represents one of the most promising pieces of education reform in our state in many years.”

The California Kindergarten Association, noted its president Debra Weller, has supported bills to change the entrance age over the past 20 years because “kindergarten educators know that changing the entrance date will help to ensure success for children throughout their school careers.”

Senate Bill 1381 is a “unique opportunity to ensure our children are ready to learn and succeed in school, compete in the global economy and contribute to thriving communities,” wrote Catherine Atkin, president of Preschool California,  in California Progress Report. 

Senate Bill 1381 is also supported by the California State PTA, the Association of California School Administrators, and more than 40 other business, educational, civic and child-advocate organizations. 

For more information on SB 1381, visit