Dodd’s Universal Preschool Bill Advances

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SACRAMENTO – A proposal from Senator Bill Dodd, D-Napa, to provide universal preschool to 4-year-olds cleared the Senate Education Committee Wednesday.

The legislation builds on the state’s existing transitional kindergarten program, which is currently available to 4-year-olds who turn five shortly after the start of their first semester.

“I strongly believe that universal early childhood education is an investment in our future that will pay dividends for years to come,” Senator Dodd said. “It is absolutely essential for economic vitality and social mobility. California must step up our investment in the next generation.”

In 2010, California created transitional kindergarten to serve as a “bridge” from preschool to kindergarten. As the first year of a two-year kindergarten experience, students born between September 2 and December 2 are eligible for admission. Research shows that children enrolled in transitional kindergarten experience higher test scores, are equipped with better social skills and more confidence, and are less likely to be held back a grade.

Around 170,000 California children who are eligible for publicly funded preschool are not enrolled because there are not enough spots available. Research shows that a high-quality one-year universal preschool program in California would generate between $2 and $4 in benefits for every dollar invested.

Senator Dodd’s measure, Senate Bill 837, expands the state’s successful transitional kindergarten program, by expanding enrollment to all 4-year-olds.

Dr. Barbara Nemko, Napa County superintendent of schools, said enrolling children at a younger age will help close an “achievement gap” that hits low-income families the hardest.

“By age 3, children from low-income families have heard 30 million fewer words than children from higher-income families,” Superintendent Nemko said. “This gap translates to children entering kindergarten with a deficit of two to three years. And this deficit stays with them throughout their school careers. For true equity, we must close the achievement gap before children get to kindergarten. Quality preschool provides an opportunity to do this.”

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Senator Bill Dodd represents California’s 3rd Senate District, which includes all or portions of Solano, Napa, Sonoma, Yolo, Sacramento, and Contra Costa Counties. You can learn more about Senator Dodd at www.sen.ca.gov/dodd.