In an effort to save California an estimated $700 million dollars in annual education spending, California legislators are considering changing the minimum kindergarten enrollment age from 4-years-old to 5.

The state Senate approved the bill by Sen. Joe Simitian on Wednesday on a 28-4 vote. Under the legislation, children must be 5 by Sept 1 in order to be eligible for kindergarten enrollment during the same school year. The age requirement would be phased in over three years starting 2012.

Research indicates that schooling before the age of 5 may not be beneficial for children, according to an editorial by the Sacramento Bee. Children who are older when they enter kindergarten have a higher probability of success.

With roughly 100,000 4-year-olds in kindergarten, the cumulative savings of keeping them out of class an extra year would reach $9.1 billion over 13 years, according to a press release from Senator Simitian's office. Half of the savings would be used to fund quality preschool programs and the remainder would be used to alleviate California's budget crisis.

San Jose Mercury News reported that the legislation was inspired by a petition from nearly 300 Palo Alto teachers, who said that younger children are not socially or academically ready for kindergarten. The policy has been recommended by the Legislative Analyst, the California Performance Review and the Governor's Committee on Education Excellence.

The bill now moves onto the State Assembly for approval.

LA Weekly