Head Start California is in strong opposition to Assembly Bill 22 (McCarty), which would expand transitional kindergarten to all 4-year olds. While we appreciate the bill’s intent to ensure that children are ready to thrive when they enter a public school system, we believe there are unintended consequences that will arise as a result of implementation of AB 22 that would harm, not help, California’s low-income children and families. Head Start California is opposed for the following reasons:
AB 22 does not address what at-risk children need.
Four-year-old children are not developmentally ready to be in a more traditional elementary school setting or program which would cause multiple transitions and disruptions during the day to move them to other programs to meet the full day needs of their families. Children this age need consistency, attachment and a nurturing environment who can manage not only their early learning, but also their social and emotional development and basic self-regulation skills. To be blunt, these children need naps and care.
This bill does not address what parents need.
For parents to work, they need childcare options that are flexible and convenient for families and that meet their individual needs. Overnight grocery store workers will need a different schedule than those who work in offices or retail stores – none of these schedules that include nights, weekends and 10-hour workdays align with the typical ‘K-12 school’ day. Family work schedules in California are just as diverse as our population.
TK expansion could put Federal funding at risk.
The rising minimum wage has made Head Start income-eligible families harder to identify. Under-enrollment can lead to reductions in future funding, which will negatively impact the strong collaboration that exists between Head Start and State Preschool. California should maximize the Federal Head Start investment in California, or risk displacing Federal dollars with state funds.
HSC has been actively engaging with members of the legislature to let them know that AB 22 is not the only solution for California’s children. While the expansion of TK is part of the conversation, it’s not the only option. California favors a mixed-delivery system of childcare which includes Head Start, and we need to make sure that members of the legislature know how integral Head Start programs are to our kids and families.
One of the most powerful things we can do is make our voices heard. AB 22 is currently in the Assembly Appropriations committee and will be heard in late May. We will be sending out a Call to Action with instructions on how to send a one-click email to your legislator letting them know that you oppose AB 22 in the coming weeks.