Home California Gov. Gavin Newsom Vetoes Mandatory Kindergarten Law

Gov. Gavin Newsom Vetoes Mandatory Kindergarten Law

by ECT

On Sunday, Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have required children to attend kindergarten before entering first grade.

Senate Bill 70 would have required all students to complete one year in kindergarten before entering first grade so that each child is prepared socially and academically before entering elementary school. Currently, parents are able to have their child skip kindergarten.

According to the Bill:

Existing law requires a school district maintaining a kindergarten to admit a child who will have their 5th birthday on or before September 1 of the school year. Existing law also requires a child who will have their 6th birthday on or before September 1 of the school year to be admitted to the first grade of an elementary school. Existing law authorizes a child who has been lawfully admitted to a public school kindergarten or a private school kindergarten in California and who is judged by the administration of the school district to be ready for first-grade work to be admitted to the first grade, as specified.
This bill, beginning with the 2024–25 school year, would require a child to have completed one year of kindergarten before that child may be admitted to the first grade at a public elementary school, except for a child who has been lawfully admitted to a public school kindergarten or a private school kindergarten in California, but has not yet completed one school year, and is judged to be ready for first-grade work, as specified, thereby imposing a state-mandated local program.


In his veto message, the governor cited costs:

To the Members of the California State Senate:

I am returning Senate Bill 70 without my signature. This bill would expand compulsory education to include kindergarten, beginning in the 2024-25 school year.

The learning that happens during the early years of a child’s life is critical to their long-term success and happiness. It’s why I worked with the Legislature to provide universal access to quality pre-kindergarten education, including transitional kindergarten, the California State Preschool Program, and other state-subsidized early learning programs. Making sure all kids begin their school careers ready to learn on par with their peers is one of the most impactful things we can do to combat societal inequities.

While the author’s intent is laudable , SB 70 is estimated to have Prop. 98 General Fund cost impacts of up to $268 million ongoing, which is not currently accounted for in the state’s fiscal plan. With our state facing lower-than-expected revenues over the first few months of this fiscal year, it is important to remain disciplined when it comes to spending, particularly spending that is ongoing. We must prioritize existing obligations and priorities, including education, health care, public safety and safety-net programs.

The Legislature sent measures with potential costs of well over $20 billion in one-time spending commitments and more than $10 billion in ongoing commitments not accounted for in the state budget. Bills with significant fiscal impact, such as this measure, should be considered and accounted for as part of the annual budget process. For these reasons, I cannot sign this bill.

Gavin Newsom


In August, after the bill passed out of the Senate in a 33-5 vote, Senator Susan Rubio spoke about the benefits of kindergarten.

“As a public school teacher for 17 years, I have witnessed the detrimental impact on young students who miss out on fundamental early education,” said Senator Rubio. “The voluntary participation for kindergarten leaves students unprepared for the educational environment they will encounter in elementary school. I thank the sponsor of this bill and my legislative colleagues for their support on a bill that will change lives.”

“Research shows that Kindergarten is an essential part of a student’s development, narrowing opportunity gaps and reducing chronic absenteeism,” said Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho. “Mandating a full year of kindergarten ensures students receive high-quality academic, social and developmentally-appropriate learning experiences. As a proud sponsor of SB 70, Los Angeles Unified is grateful that a coalition of other school districts and organizations representing children, parents, teachers, businesses and communities have come together to expand educational options for our youngest learners across California”

According to the National Education Association, kindergarteners who miss 10% or more school days have lower academic performance when they reach the first grade. Experts predict that low-income, K-12 Latino students will scholastically fall as much as 9 months— a full academic year— behind non-Hispanic White and higher-income students from classes missed in spring 2020 alone.

SB 70 was supported by a number of school districts, labor partners, parents, and educational advocacy organizations.

Back in October of  2019, Governor Newsom vetoed Assembly Bill 197 which would have required school districts across the state to offer one full-day kindergarten class.

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