Legislators and Education Advocates Announce Universal Transitional Kindergarten Bill

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – In a major step forward to achieve universal early learning in California, Assemblymembers Kevin McCarty, Phil Ting, and Eloise Gómez Reyes and State Senators Susan Rubio, Lena Gonzalez, and Bill Dodd introduced AB 2500 – Universal Transitional Kindergarten (TK) – to expand access to transitional kindergarten for all four-year-olds throughout the state. Education advocacy organizations including Early Edge California, California School Employees Association (CSEA), and Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) also embraced the TK proposal.

Ten years ago, the Legislature approved the “Kindergarten Readiness Act,” which established TK to serve and educate a limited amount of four-year-olds within the public K-12 system. Currently, only twenty-five percent of four-year-olds are able to enroll in TK because they were born in the fall. This means that the majority of four-year-olds are missing out on quality early learning opportunities that will provide them with greater academic preparedness. 

AB 2500 compliments and builds upon the existing TK law and our California State Preschool Program – which currently serves over 170,000 low-income three- and four-year olds – to phase in full-day, universal early learning by providing an additional year of transitional kindergarten for all four-year-olds. With these two programs in place, low-income three-year-olds will receive two years of quality early learning to prepare them for kindergarten and beyond.

A large body of research confirms that high-quality early learning can substantially improve children’s success in K-12 school. Research further shows that California TK has reduced the need for high-cost interventions such as special education and grade retention later in life.

“We know that quality early education matters for our youngest learners and for our economic future,” said Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento). “Expanding universal Transitional Kindergarten moves the state toward providing all families with important early learning and will help us tackle some of the stubborn issues we’re working on today, such as intergenerational poverty, the education achievement and opportunity gap, and cracking the school-to-prison pipeline.”

“It’s not fair that only a quarter of California’s four-year-olds receive an extra year of public education. We need to ensure all kids get a great start in life, and Universal Transitional Kindergarten will lay a strong foundation for them to succeed in the classroom for years to come,” said Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), joint-author of AB 2500.

"I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing AB 2500, which will dramatically change the level of access children and families have to transitional kindergarten. When we increase access to high quality early learning and care programs, like transitional kindergarten, we uplift California's children and families both in the short and long term. This is the first major step of many to build a system of universal access to California's growing early learning and care programs, a primary goal of the Assembly Blue Ribbon Commission Final Report.  I look forward to continuing the fight for our children and families to have the best access to quality education and care,” said Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes (D-San Bernardino), joint-author of AB 2500.

“There’s no investment more important than educating our children. We know that high-quality early childhood education has lifelong benefits. That’s why I’m happy to partner on this bill to expand access to transitional kindergarten,” said Senator Bill Dodd, co-author of AB 2500.

“As a teacher, I noticed the clear difference between students who had participated in Transitional Kindergarten versus those students who went directly to kindergarten. It has proven effective for students who participate, with even greater impacts on language skills for English learners and math skills for low income students. Expanding funding will help eliminate the achievement gap and better prepare our younger students for kindergarten, which is why I’m proud to be a co-author with Assemblyman Kevin McCarty on AB 2500,” said Senator Susan Rubio, co-author of AB 2500.

“We know that early childhood education is one of the greatest investments we can make to improve student performance, and Transitional Kindergarten is an important way to engage children in the learning process at a younger age. As a mother of a young child, I’m thrilled to co-author AB 2500--a bill that will expand access to Transitional Kindergarten for all 4 year olds and help California remain at the forefront of early childhood development,” said Senator Lena Gonzalez, co-author of AB 2500.

“Early Edge California is excited about the prospect of achieving universal preschool in California. We know that high-quality preschool benefits every child, but is especially beneficial for low-income, minority children. AB 2500 creates a promising path to closing opportunity and achievement gaps for students by delivering much-needed resources at the beginning of their educational careers. We commend Assembly Members McCarty, Ting and Reyes and State Senators Rubio, Gonzalez, and Dodd for taking this bold step to advance the goal of Preschool for All— a vision we know Governor Newsom shares,” said Patricia Lozano, Executive Director, Early Edge California.

“All California four-year-olds deserve access to high-quality early educational opportunities in our public schools, and Transitional Kindergarten is the right delivery system. Our members look forward to serving more of California’s students and helping them build a strong foundation for future success,” said California School Employees Association President Ben Valdepeña.

“We fundamentally believe that providing access to transitional kindergarten to more of our families is the right policy conversation to be having ten years after the creation of the initial program. We look forward to working with the Legislature to determine if we can achieve the goal of expanding TK in a way that makes sense for our California students and the schools that serve them,” said Dr. Wes Smith, Executive Director, Association of California School Administrators

# # #