Aided by a surprise tax surplus, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced on Wednesday that his forthcoming budget would allow all 4-year-olds in the state to attend transitional kindergarten and would create college savings accounts for low-income first graders.
For the third consecutive day, the California Democrat traveled across the state to deliver another detail of his revised May budget, which will be fully unveiled in Sacramento on Friday.
On Wednesday, Newsom introduced his vision for $20 billion of educational investments, highlighted by an expansion of the state’s transitional kindergarten program. Currently, the state offers an extra year of kindergarten to about one-third of eligible 4-year-olds in the state – those who turn 5 between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2. About 91,000 students currently participate in the voluntary program now, according to a legislative analysis. Newsom’s proposal would phase in eligibility for all California 4-year-olds regardless of their birthday by 2024 at an additional annual cost of $2.7 billion.
Newsom said the investment of at least three hours a day of instruction for the state’s youngest learners is a recognition that not all children are equally prepared for school.
“People aren’t left behind as often as they start behind,” he said Wednesday. “We recognize that we need to provide more enrichment.”
Newsom also said that his budget proposal would give $500 to every public school first grader eligible for a federally subsidized school lunch in order to create a college savings account. For foster and homeless children, the state would provide $1,000 in seed funding. Up to 3.7 million California school children would be eligible for the savings accounts, which could be used later in life to apply to higher education or to start a business.
“A young child with even as little as $400 is seven times more likely to go into college because they have a modest amount of savings,” Newsom said. “They can build up not only assets, but build that mindset in terms of creating that college-going culture.”
At the news conference, Newsom also said his new budget would set aside billions of dollars in ongoing funding to provide free after-school and summer enrichment programs for 2.1 million elementary school children in districts with the highest concentration of English learners, foster and homeless students and low-income children. The cost would be $1 billion in the next year and $5 billion in five years.
The offerings are made possible by a $76 billion surplus attributed to unexpectedly sizable tax revenue. That boon was bolstered by a bullish stock market and the good fortunes of the state's wealthiest residents, who pay the largest share of personal income and capital gains taxes in the state. The federal government is also providing billions of dollars in funding to states through the pandemic relief program.