SACRAMENTO (KABC) -- Young children in California may soon be required to attend kindergarten.
The state Senate passed an education bill Monday that requires all students to complete one year in kindergarten before going to the first grade.
Existing California law doesn't require children to attend school until they're six years old.
Senate Bill 70, which was created by Sen. Susan Rubio, a Democrat from Baldwin Park, comes after many of the state's youngest students skipped kindergarten during the COVID-19 pandemic - heightening learning gap concerns.
"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 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."
The bill is backed by several education advocacy groups and a number of school districts, including the Los Angeles Unified School District.
"Research shows that kindergarten is an essential part of a student's development, narrowing opportunity gaps and reducing chronic absenteeism," said LAUSD Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho. "Mandating a full year of kindergarten ensures students receive high-quality academic, social and developmentally-appropriate learning experiences."
Rubio expects Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign the bill. If he does, it would take effect for the 2024-25 school year.
Gary Overman, director of a preschool in Westminster, says teaching kids starting at a young age is important for their development.
"We want the children to be able to take care of themselves and have the self-confidence to go to the next level," he said.
Children's World Preschool in Westminster has been open since 1964 and has taught countless kids the skills necessary to succeed in kindergarten.
"Missing the foundation of kindergarten could be a real detriment to the child going into first grade," he said.
At the same time he's not convinced that kindergarten attendance needs to be made part of California law, since it is so prevalent already.
"I know my principals at the schools that I go to and in talking with them they say very rarely does any child come into their school that hasn't gone to kindergarten," Overman said.