The California Senate voted Thursday to expand publicly funded preschool programs to tens of thousands of 4-year-olds from low-income families, despite Republican lawmakers' concerns that the change would strain the state budget.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) called his bill “a major advance in early childhood education,” saying it would give a boost to half of the 4-year-olds in California.
Steinberg said the status quo puts low-income children at a disadvantage. “What are we doing here having tens of thousands of kids start kindergarten behind and then fall further behind?”
However, Senate Republican leader Robert Huff (R-Diamond Bar) led opposition from his most of his members, saying there are other, higher priorities in education funding. Huff said the data on the effectiveness of such programs is “inconclusive.”
“We just don’t have the money with the wall of debt we have, with the other programs we have committed to,” Huff told his colleagues. The vote on SB 837 was 26-10 and the measure next goes to the Assembly for consideration. However, the $378 million in funding for the bill is expected to be a point of contention during the upcoming budget negotiations.