By Lillian Mongeau
A bill that would make public pre-kindergarten available at no charge to children from California’s lowest-income families passed the state Senate today and heads to the Assembly for debate there.
First introduced with much fanfare in January, SB 837 expands the pre-kindergarten program known as transitional kindergarten. It has been touted as a top priority by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg despite little interest on the part of Gov. Jerry Brown.
“This is at the top of the list. I can’t think of anything more important,” Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said at a news conference announcing the new bill in January.
Transitional kindergarten is a public school program for children who turn 5 in the first few months of the school year. Originally, the bill sought to expand transitional kindergarten to serve all 4-year-olds the year before they enrolled in kindergarten. Changes to the bill language announced last week and introduced yesterday would make transitional kindergarten a targeted program for children who qualify for free or reduced price lunch under the federal poverty guidelines (under $44,000 annual income for a family of four), rather than a universal program.