In February, the county Board of Education unanimously voted to adopt a resolution in support SB 837 by state Sen. Darrell Steinberg. The bill is known as the “Kindergarten Readiness Act,” and its goal is to provide early education access to every 4-year-old in the state. The “Strong Start” task force begun by three members of the county Board last year has worked on the same goal on behalf of all children in the county. Despite local and state efforts in high gear, however, we might not be any closer to its implementation.
Low-income children are often so behind in their language development that they never catch up with their middle-income and wealthier peers. Remediation and special education are costly interventions. In many instances, these efforts fall short of the goal. This leads to an unsustainable pattern of low academic achievement.
Gov. Jerry Brown, in his first stint in Sacramento, was a bold and courageous leader. I was a graduate student and 20-something alternative education teacher, and I admired him greatly.
But today, the 75-year-old Brown refuses to support a cost-effective intervention of the achievement gap. Continuing down the path we’re on is suicide. When fully funded, the cost of the program in five years is near $1 billion—but the savings is more than $7 billion annually.
It’s a no-brainer. Research shows that increases in kindergarten readiness, especially in language development, lead to better achievement, reduces crime, raises economic trajectory, and increases higher education attendance rates.
Universal preschool is an attainable goal for California this budget cycle. Gov. Brown is unusually popular with a 60 percent approval rating. And yet, he is being overly cautious to a fault. The governor must find the political courage to support SB 837 soon or the bill's will not succeed.
Children are our most important resource, but we must also invest in them. SB 837’s passage would be a huge step forward.