FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) – Gov. Gavin Newsom visited a transitional kindergarten classroom at Sunset Elementary in Fresno on Tuesday morning before signing legislation aimed at improving early learning for children across the state.
As part of Newsom’s $123.9 billion Pre-K and K-12 education package, the state looks to provide free pre-kindergarten for all 4-year-olds in the state. The program would begin in 2022-23 with full implementation anticipated by 2025-26, according to a release sent by the governor’s office.
“It’s an application and an implementation that will take a few years, I don’t want to over-promise all for this turns on overnight, now the savings accounts, that process will unfold more rapidly,” Newsom said.
Included in that plan is $1.9 billion toward college savings accounts of $500 to $1,500 dollars for low-income students, English-language learners, and foster and homeless youth. These students will have the savings accounts started when they enroll in the first grade. The details are still being worked out.
“We’re doing something at scale that’s never been done before, so a lot of the details and the application need to be worked out over the course of the next many weeks,” Newsom said. “We’re using $2 billion of COVID relief funds to create a college-going culture.”
Newsom was joined by Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer, State Superintendent Tony Thurmond, Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson, and Valley lawmakers.
And among those present during his visit was also Alma Renteria, a transitional kindergarten teacher at Sunset Elementary.
Renteria has seen firsthand the impacts that early learning can have on children.
“If we also look at the academics, where they start learning their letters, they’re connecting their numbers, and at an early age, that’s going to set them for a better future,” Renteria said.
For the college savings accounts, according to the release, the state anticipates roughly 3.7 million current students will benefit from it. Newsom said this is regardless of families’ immigration status.
The release adds that the plan also includes $10 million to expand dual language immersion programs and $300 million to increase the number of state preschool or transitional kindergarten programs as well as for pre-k teacher training.