PETALUMA, Calif. (KRON) — This is the 6th year that Sonoma County schools have seen a decline in kindergarten students’ readiness. County officials say they want that to change because experts say it can impact kids’ overall futures–from pay wages to health.

Sonoma County officials say only one in five of its students were ready kindergarten this school year saying it stems from disparities like poverty, race and ethnic backgrounds.

In addition, the county says over the last six years families have also faced things like wildfires, floods and of the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials added that back in 2020, more than 200 of its of 600+ childcare and pre-schools were closed.

Before the pandemic, there were 12,800 kids enrolled in pre-schools and Sonoma County day cares. Now, that number is down to 7,800.

And last fall, only 22 percent of Sonoma County kids were actually ready for kindergarten with a good amount being White, Asian and Pacific Islander, while children of color were less likely to be ready.

In the last 6 years, only 26 percent of Latino kids were ready, followed by 33 percent of Black children and 33 percent of Native American kids.

So what’s being done? The county says several efforts are underway, the main one being a program that would provide universal Pre-K for all 4-year-olds in California by the start of 2025. This would help parents who may not have the money for Pre-K or private daycare.

The county says these numbers have gone down over the last few years but they are still high, adding that if kids did attend Pre-K, it could change the outcome of their overall life.