Probably the strongest indication of how the State Board of Education would vote on waiver requests from nine school districts seeking to delay the start of Transitional Kindergarten came from the districts themselves; not a single representative showed up to even try to argue their case.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Board unanimously agreed with Department of Education analysts and rejected the waiver applications. That decision sent a clear message to other districts, said Scott Moore, Preschool California’s senior policy director. “There was a sense of people are watching this to see how the State Board acts,” said Moore. “Granting them a waiver to not provide public education to these students isn’t something that they feel is legal.”

Transitional Kindergarten is a new program, but doesn’t involve new students. The same bill that raised California’s age requirement for kindergarten created TK to provide the kids who miss the new cutoff with an additional year of kindergarten the way it used to be; puppets, play kitchens, and an introduction to phonics.

Because these children would have been in regular kindergarten anyway, TK doesn’t cost the state any more money. But Gov. Brown tried to spin it as a new program and proposed eliminating its funding to help pay down the state deficit. In the few months between the time the governor released that proposal and the Legislature rejected it, a number of school districts panicked, thinking they’d have to add a new grade without any state funding to pay for it. They appealed to the State Board of Education for an extra year to put the program into place.

This has all been incredibly frustrating to Democratic State Senator Joe Simitian of Palo Alto, who authored SB 1381, the bill that established Transitional Kindergarten. “What’s a little bit surprising to me is that it is still not fully understood now, almost two years after the bill passed,” Sen. Simitian told EdSource.

For example, in a separate waiver request, a charter school wrote that it only had four children displaced by the new age requirement and it would be too expensive to start a new class just for them. Department of Education staff recommended that the Board approve the request on the condition that the school creates a split TK/kindergarten class. But the bill already gives schools and districts the flexibility to implement TK however they want, Simitian said, as long as it’s age and developmentally appropriate. The State Board put off a decision on that request until its next meeting.

So, on the belief that you can never explain things too often, Simitian went before the State Board to give a synopsis of SB 1381 in an effort to clear up confusion. “I think the Board appreciated the recap on just how much flexibility we built into the system, and the fact that we had two years to plan, so this wasn’t something that we simply rolled out in the fall without notice,” said Simitian. “That being said, I think it’s important to remember these are the exceptions to the rule. The buzz we get from around the state is quite positive that people are really excited that this is one of the few bright spots on the public education horizon.”

Filed under: Jerry Brown, Kindergarten and Preschool, Quick Hits, State Board of Education, Transitional Kindergarten · Tags:

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  1. Bea says:

    How does TK apportionment work in basic aid school districts?

    1. Kathryn Baron says:

      According to the state department of education, TK students are the same as kindergarten students for the purposes of funding.

      1. Bea says:

        Then by that same logic, charter schools must be compelled to comply, correct?

  2. el says:

    There have always been some fees for higher income families. The new rules are that there has to be some sort of fee for nearly every family, even a minimal fee that does nothing to fund the program but will cause hardship for the families and discourage them from enrolling the kids.

    Our school would be better off financially waiving the fees than we will be collecting them. That’s not something you see every day. But, the law requires the school to institute bureaucracy to collect the fees (I guess we have nothing better to do with our day). The parents we most need to get going in school culture and the kids who most need a head start before kindergarten have elected not to enroll…. which I believe is exactly as someone intended. At this point I believe that it isn’t about saving money or raising money for the program, but about punishing poor people for having kids. And indirectly, about punishing poor kids for not choosing wealthier parents.

    The real losers will be all the kids in kindergarten next year, who will have that many more classmates underprepared for school.

  3. el says:

    We’ve been focused on Transitional Kindergarten, but I didn’t fully understand until today the cuts that are being implemented to the state preschool system. That there were cuts, I knew. But the parent fees are far more problematic than I realized – fees that apply down to incomes of $13,000. The school – the free public school! – is obligated to collect the money from these very low income parents. This is going to be their introduction to the California school system.

    Among some of the issues:
    - The school has no mechanisms or systems to bill parents monthly. With less money, the school is expected to set up a billing system for 20 odd students… each most likely for different amounts.

    - What if the parents stop paying a few months into the school year? Is the principal – who will also be the principal of the elementary school they attend – obligated to call the parents and tell them that the kids cannot attend preschool until the bill is paid? What happens when we expect them to show up for kindergarten (transitional or otherwise)?

    - And finally – aren’t these low income kids the ones that we MOST want to get into preschool, the families we most want to make a productive and healthy and supportive relationship with?

    Talk about penny-wise and pound foolish.

    This is horrible. How the heck did we allow this to go through without a fuss?

    1. Navigio says:

      The crazy thing is that this is the ‘nice’ version. The January proposed budget would have cut over half a billion. As it is it’s ‘only’ 130m.

      Here is a good site for overview info:

      There is a fact sheet on there that mentions that had the cut proposed in January gone through, the program would have seen a 40% reduction in funding since 08-09. Corrections had a 15% reduction in that time. I guess we need to invest in our future, of not one way, then the other..

      The thing I’m not sure about is whether the November trigger cuts will further impact preschool.

      Fwiw, munger’s proposal sends 10% of its money into early childhood education in the first 3 years and then 15% thereafter. Here is a nice cheat sheet.

  4. Concerned Parent says:

    Aspire Public Schools have turned us away numerous times, stating they will not be offering Transitional Kinder. It was so difficult to enroll my daughter in another school that was offering Tk, since Aspire is our home school. Nonetheless we were able to get a permit and enroll my daughter in another school. But why do I have to jump all these hoops when it has been stated many times that ALL school have to offer TK. Is it worth it to keep fighting for this? Is it too late? What can I do?

  5. Eric Premack says:

    Even if one buys the argument that TK is mandated for districts, which it arguably isn’t, it’s yet another stretch to say charter schools are required to offer it.

    The law says that offering TK is required as a condition of receiving TK funding. One reasonable interpretation of this is that, if a district takes the funding, it must admit TK students and that if a district opts not to take the bait, it doesn’t have to admit TK students or run TK programs.

    If, for the sake of discussion, the law does mandate districts to admit such students, it’s yet another stretch to argue that charter schools must admit them. The law requires that charter schools, as a condition of taking TK funding, to ensure that TK age students be admitted to a TK program “maintained by the district.” It makes no mention of requiring the charter school to admit the students to a program maintained by the charter school.

    On the waiver issue . . . charter schools currently lack the authority to request waivers from the State Board–the charter version of a waiver law sunset several years ago. In practice, the Board allows district boards to request them on the behalf of charter schools. Some districts will do this, others refuse.

  6. Kathryn Baron says:

    Senator Simitian and the California Department of Education maintain that the Transitional Kindergarten bill does apply to charter schools. Here’s what the state education code states:

    Section 48000
    (c) As a condition of receipt of apportionment for pupils in a
    transitional kindergarten program pursuant to subdivision (g) of
    Section 46300, a school district or charter school shall ensure the
    (1) In the 2012-13 school year, a child who will have his or her
    fifth birthday between November 2 and December 2 shall be admitted to
    a transitional kindergarten program maintained by the school
    (2) In the 2013-14 school year, a child who will have his or her
    fifth birthday between October 2 and December 2 shall be admitted to
    a transitional kindergarten program maintained by the school
    (3) In the 2014-15 school year and each school year thereafter, a
    child who will have his or her fifth birthday between September 2 and
    December 2 shall be admitted to a transitional kindergarten program
    maintained by the school district.
    (d) For purposes of this section, “transitional kindergarten”
    means the first year of a two-year kindergarten program that uses a
    modified kindergarten curriculum that is age and developmentally
    (e) A transitional kindergarten shall not be construed as a new
    program or higher level of service.

    Charter school associations dispute this.
    Charter schools (as do all public schools) have a lot of flexibility under the TK law in how to offer the program. They can do a separate class or a split class with kindergarten – as long as the instruction for the TK kids is tailored to them. The latter is what the State Board of Education will consider at its next meeting for a Riverside County charter that’s seeking a waiver.

    1. SRB says:

      So is the process similar in that charter schools need to ask for a waiver at the State level? or at the chartering agency level? Also isn’t it a bit late to consider waivers …less than a month before school starts?

      1. Kathy Baron says:

        A charter school needs to seek a waiver from the State Board of Education. As for the timing of waivers, it does seem a bit late. As Sen. Simitian has said, districts have had 2 years to plan for TK. His bill passed in 2010.

  7. SRB says:

    Both the State Board of Education and the legislation seem pretty silent on charter schools. Does that mandate apply to charter schools? And will it be up to the chartering agencies to monitor it?