A Senate proposal to expand transitional kindergarten to all 4-year-olds would be more expensive than originally predicted, according to a new analysis.

Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento

Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, has introduced a bill that would expand transitional kindergarten. Credit: Lillian Mongeau, EdSource

At full rollout in 2019-20, Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg’s proposal would cost $1.46 billion in addition to the $901 million already being spent on the current transitional kindergarten program, according to a recent analysis by the California Department of Education. Steinberg, D-Sacramento, had said the expansion would cost an additional $990 million at full rollout when he introduced legislation to create the program in January.

“When I think about what we spend money on in this state, what we spend on education and the amount of surplus dollars we are experiencing, whether (the program expansion) costs $990 million or $1.46 billion, there’s not a better investment we could make,” Steinberg said in an interview with EdSource.

California now spends $3,700 per child per year, or $607 million annually, on a half-day state-funded preschool program for 4-year-olds from low-income families. Not every eligible child is able to attend the program due to insufficient funding.

Steinberg’s Senate Bill 837 would expand early learning opportunities by creating a state-funded half-day pre-kindergarten program for all 4-year-olds. The bill would expand the existing transitional kindergarten program for children who turn 5 in the first three months of the school year and are too young to enroll in kindergarten. The new program would be available to all families, regardless of income, and would be phased in over five years to reach full capacity and full cost in the 2019-20 school year. The first phase would begin in the 2015-16 school year and cost an additional $72.2 million in state funding.

The original cost estimate for the expansion was a “back-of-the-envelope” calculation, Steinberg said. Once the bill had been introduced, Steinberg’s team asked the California Department of Education to make a more detailed analysis.

Even before the new estimate, some members of the Legislature said the projected program cost was too high. Providing transitional kindergarten to all 4-year-olds is a good idea, but isn’t fiscally feasible until the state has built a healthy reserve and created a plan to pay off its long-term debt, said Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, vice-chair of the Budget Subcommittee on Education.

“It’s easy to get caught up in the opportunity (a program expansion) would bring without thinking of the impact financially,” Olsen said in December when Democratic leaders in the Assembly first floated the idea.

Olsen has since proposed Assembly Bill 2017, which would create a small, privately funded preschool program for low-income children in Ventura County that she said could act as a model for a larger program down the road.

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said there is enough money to spend more on care and education for young children in the state, but she’s not sure expanding transitional kindergarten is the best option. Making kindergarten mandatory, increasing funding for the current state-funded preschool program and offering free instructional training to private day care providers are among some of the alternate ideas Skinner said should be considered.

“What I am looking forward to is a really good discussion on all these questions,” Skinner said. “I’ve not yet solidly fallen into what’s the right path right now.”

If the bill passes, education department officials would expect 372,000 4-year-olds, about 70 percent of the eligible population, to enroll in the program by the time it is fully rolled out. The handful of other states –namely Oklahoma, Florida and Vermont – that offer universal preschool programs have enrollment rates just higher than 70 percent, while non-enrolled children either stay home or attend private programs. Each enrolled child will cost the state about $5,500, or two thirds of what a similar K-3 child would cost under the new Local Control Funding Formula for schools, which accounts for income status and home-language status, among other factors.

Once schools receive that money, the majority of it would cover teacher salaries. The bill calls for two adults, one credentialed teacher and one assistant, in each classroom of 20 transitional kindergartners, to be paid on the same pay scale as K-12 teachers. The average salary for a mid-career elementary teacher in a medium school district is $63,903.

By 2019-20, the increased enrollment would raise the funds the state could spend on schools under Proposition 98, which sets a minimum funding level for schools, by $2.2 billion, according to the California Department of Education. The additional funding should be enough to run the expanded transitional kindergarten program without cutting into existing revenues for school districts. However, the new money directed toward schools would come from the state’s general fund, leaving funding for other social welfare programs vulnerable, Steinberg said.

Richard Camargo, 5, plays letter-sound-bingo in his transitional kindergarten classroom at H.W. Harkness Elementary School in Sacramento. A new bill would make the program universal for all 4-year-olds. Credit: Lillian Mongeau, EdSource

Richard Camargo, 5, plays letter-sound-bingo in his transitional kindergarten classroom at H.W. Harkness Elementary in Sacramento. Credit: Lillian Mongeau, EdSource

“I’m always concerned about the entire budget,” Steinberg said. “But I know this: (According to) the brain research and the broader research on this subject, if we invest in universal pre-K, we will save money in a lot of other areas down the line.”

Nobel-Prize-winning economist James Heckman found that the return on investment for publicly funded preschool is $7 for every $1 spent. The 600 percent return comes from savings on special education, welfare and prison costs, as well as increased income tax revenue, Heckman found. If that holds true in California, the new pre-kindergarten program would start paying for itself in about 20 years, when the first graduates move into the workforce.

Critics charge that such rosy predictions are overly optimistic. Larger, cheaper public preschool programs have rarely shown as much success as the small, expensive preschool program Heckman studied, critics say. Federal and state governments are already spending too much money on early childhood programs that do too little to help children, said Russ Whitehurst, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, in his testimony to the U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee’s February hearing on early childhood education.

“We know far less than the advocacy community, and many members of the research community, would have you believe about who needs what early childhood services when,” Whitehurst testified.

Gov. Jerry Brown has not yet taken a public stand on the transitional kindergarten expansion proposal. Without Brown’s support, it may be difficult to get any money at all set aside for early learning, let alone the $1.46 billion that will be required to expand transitional kindergarten.

Steinberg said he is confident that the governor and the state legislature will end up agreeing on a way to provide more publicly funded pre-kindergarten options for young children.

“Am I willing to fight for this? Yes,” Steinberg said. “Should it be a fight? No.”

Lillian Mongeau covers early childhood education. Contact her or follow her @lrmongeau. Subscribe to EdSource’s early learning newsletter, Eyes on the Early Years.


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  1. Floyd Thursby 2 years ago2 years ago

    This is better, goal oriented and geared towards making it so welfare isn’t needed. I say, take it out of unearned money and give it to kids who have hope to become good people. Adults on welfare are not for the most part going to change drastically. Most are lost causes. Kids at age 4 could.

  2. navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

    the new money directed toward schools would come from the state’s general fund, leaving funding for other social welfare programs vulnerable, Steinberg said.

    sounds like steinberg is trying to give himself a way out. thats always true when funding increases in a way thats disproportionate to revenue. i bet they’ll figure out away to take it out of lcff.

    Replies

    • Lillian Mongeau 2 years ago2 years ago

      Hey Navigio,

      The way the bill is currently written, each newly enrolled child would qualify for 2/3 of whatever a K-3 child would get under LCFF. That money would shift from the general fund to the Prop 98 guarantee. So it would come from LCFF, in a way, but the pool of LCFF money would be bigger. Does that make sense?

      ~Lillian

  3. el 2 years ago2 years ago

    When my daughter was 4, the only preschool available in our neighborhood was the state preschool. We didn't qualify because we made too much money. The nearest private preschool involved driving a half hour each way, which didn't seem a good use of time or resources. My daughter definitely would have benefitted from the opportunity to be around other kids and to interact with the preschool program. Is she OK? Sure. I was able to give … Read More

    When my daughter was 4, the only preschool available in our neighborhood was the state preschool. We didn’t qualify because we made too much money. The nearest private preschool involved driving a half hour each way, which didn’t seem a good use of time or resources.

    My daughter definitely would have benefitted from the opportunity to be around other kids and to interact with the preschool program. Is she OK? Sure. I was able to give her quality time, and she caught up rapidly in kindergarten. But other kids her age may have ended up spending an extra year in kindergarten instead (ie – we effectively paid for them to have TK anyway), or perhaps they would be in relatively low quality daycare programs.

    It’s interesting to me that the proposal is to expand transitional kindergarten rather than to expand the state preschool system to all income levels, and I’m curious to know the rationale behind that.

    Replies

    • Floyd Thursby 2 years ago2 years ago

      El, the goal may be to make it union, which would make it mediocre. You can’t pay people for days they call in sick. You need a constant presence for these kids, not union/subs and LIFO. That’s key, you have to run it as a separate program or it won’t get results. Parents know this who are smart and take the time to teach their kids. But many parents don’t bother.

      • el 2 years ago2 years ago

        Certainly most pre-school positions are very low paid, and not something you can generally make a career from as a single breadwinner.

    • Lillian Mongeau 2 years ago2 years ago

      Great question, El. As I understand it, the rationale is two-fold. One, officials are hoping that the half-day TK program can work with the half-day state pre-K program for kids from low-income families to provide a full day of care and education for that targeted group. Many state pre-K programs are offered in or near elementary schools already and early ed providers are used to "braiding" funding from multiple sources, so this is the idea Steinberg … Read More

      Great question, El.

      As I understand it, the rationale is two-fold. One, officials are hoping that the half-day TK program can work with the half-day state pre-K program for kids from low-income families to provide a full day of care and education for that targeted group. Many state pre-K programs are offered in or near elementary schools already and early ed providers are used to “braiding” funding from multiple sources, so this is the idea Steinberg and others have brought up when I’ve asked.

      I suspect, but am not sure, that the other reason lawmakers are proposing to expand TK rather than state pre-K is that the current TK program meets nearly all of the federal quality standards laid out in the bill to create a stronger federal support system for state preschool services. (The state pre-K program only meets about half.) Were the federal bill to pass, a long shot, it’s probably a better gamble for California to have an expanded TK program to hold up when they’re requesting the new federal funding. This is largely conjecture on my part, but I’m keeping tabs on the idea. If/when I get something solid on this, I’ll write it up 🙂

      ~Lillian

  4. Regis 2 years ago2 years ago

    As far as educating people, they have to WANT to be educated in the first place. I can tell from the Truancy rates and graduation rates, that this is a very high priority (not!). And secondly, population regulation is NOT self regulating. When you give out numerous TAXPAYER (not Government, because doesn't SOMEBODY have to pay for it?) Benefits just to eject a baby out of a person that doesn't have the capacity, … Read More

    As far as educating people, they have to WANT to be educated in the first place. I can tell from the Truancy rates and graduation rates, that this is a very high priority (not!). And secondly, population regulation is NOT self regulating. When you give out numerous TAXPAYER (not Government, because doesn’t SOMEBODY have to pay for it?) Benefits just to eject a baby out of a person that doesn’t have the capacity, income or responsibility for that child, isn’t that rewarding them?

    Doesn’t that become the ‘gift that keeps on giving’? Because the children of the children, will keep bearing children (free to them, very, very costly to me and the other taxpayers), where’s the benefits to society for that? Not on my dime, brother.

    Replies

    • Floyd Thursby 2 years ago2 years ago

      Regie, you're being dumb here. We need to break the cycle by teaching them to read and that to be successful, they have to NOT be like their parents, they have to do flash cards before they can play, work hard, and do what is difficult. They need impulse control, to not fight. I don't think you teach a kid anything by refusing to pay for pre-school. Look at Uganda, they have 8 … Read More

      Regie, you’re being dumb here. We need to break the cycle by teaching them to read and that to be successful, they have to NOT be like their parents, they have to do flash cards before they can play, work hard, and do what is difficult. They need impulse control, to not fight.

      I don’t think you teach a kid anything by refusing to pay for pre-school. Look at Uganda, they have 8 kids a woman. They teach them that, they barely pay for anything and people starve if they have too many kids. They still have them. Your lesson won’t be learned. We as a society have to step in, break the cycle, and say every child born whether rich or poor has a right to work hard for the American Dream and we will help them as much as we can.

      Since 2008 95% of the economic gains have gone to the top 1%, and it’s not like excessive inequality wasn’t a problem ALREADY at that time, but now for some reason those who control the economy are making decisions which make this even worse. We don’t have enough jobs for all and we are giving way more to some people not because they work harder but because of privelege, inheritance, and other unfair factors. Come on, a CEO doesn’t work 300 times as hard as a factory worker or janitor or busboy. It’s not based on hard work. In Japan and Europe it rarely gets to 100 times.

      Therefore, due to this unfairness in the behavior of the CEOs and others who make the pay decisions, we have to tax a bigger and bigger percentage of this money and spend it on education for the poor to level the opportunity playing field. Poor kids don’t deserve any less chance than rich ones to succeed. The rich if they are near minorities massively choose private school to avoid them, whereas if there are all white suburbs like Saratoga/Los Gatos, they choose public, it’s OK to go public as long as no pesky poor minorities are in the schools beyond a few tokens who are afraid to act out and be expelled.

      We don’t have equal opportunity. We have less class mobility than Europe or the rich parts of Asia. About 6% of those born in the bottom 20% make the top 20%. Asians are doing it, and it can be done, Cubans, Persians, Nigerians (read Triple Package). But we need to teach kids how to do it. And since the rich who control it have been so unfair, we need to take advantage of our votes in a Democracy to redistrubute some of their ill gotten gains to help poor children have a fair chance. In Democracy, we have the right to do so.

  5. Regis 2 years ago2 years ago

    You have to want to be educated in the first place! Most of the progeny are of the 'throw away' at the fire station type. Not on my dime, brother! See the 'Truancy Problem'... See the 'Graduation Rate'... Where's the success? Read More

    You have to want to be educated in the first place! Most of the progeny are of the ‘throw away’ at the fire station type. Not on my dime, brother! See the ‘Truancy Problem’… See the ‘Graduation Rate’… Where’s the success?

    Replies

    • Paul Muench 2 years ago2 years ago

      I recommend reading Dan Willingham’s books. My interpretation of his work is that you cannot separate a child’s desire to learn from what he knows. If a child becomes overwhelmed he gives up. The whole idea of early education is to increase children’s knowledge at an early age so that they don’t give up.

      • Regis 2 years ago2 years ago

        Paul, this starts at HOME! The Government and the system should NOT be in the Child Rearing Business, now, should they? Otherwise a large portion of our Society will be dependent on the Government to do, what they should be doing themselves (wait, that’s already happening).

        • Paul Muench 2 years ago2 years ago

          I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on what government should do. I suspect we’d never come to any common understanding on such a deep issue on a blog.

          • Regis 2 years ago2 years ago

            I'm ok with the disagreement. I appreciate the feedback, but what I'd like everybody here to know, is that, it is Government intervention into what was once exclusively the domain of the parents and individuals, that is the cause of a wide range of problems. Ask yourself this question: Have you seen the Government FIX anything yet, if not make it worse? I'll tell you what, it's not going to get any better, no … Read More

            I’m ok with the disagreement. I appreciate the feedback, but what I’d like everybody here to know, is that, it is Government intervention into what was once exclusively the domain of the parents and individuals, that is the cause of a wide range of problems.

            Ask yourself this question: Have you seen the Government FIX anything yet, if not make it worse? I’ll tell you what, it’s not going to get any better, no matter how much money you throw at it, according to the results. And the solution to FAILURE? Throw more money at it! That will fix it, huh?

            One day, there’s going to be an accountability for all this BS spending. Somebody is going to stand up and ask, where in the hell is all this money going and what is it accomplishing. From my perspective, I see a dismal picture.

            • Floyd Thursby 2 years ago2 years ago

              We have this in San Francisco for those who are low income. I do believe this can be beneficial, but I took a couple of my kids out of one pre-school. We absolutely have to make 100% sure it's not union, that would ruin everything if duds get in and have a lifetime right to a job. We need to make sure performance is measured. If teachers do the right thing … Read More

              We have this in San Francisco for those who are low income. I do believe this can be beneficial, but I took a couple of my kids out of one pre-school. We absolutely have to make 100% sure it’s not union, that would ruin everything if duds get in and have a lifetime right to a job. We need to make sure performance is measured. If teachers do the right thing and are good, don’t call in sick much, are focused, this will have an impact, but there are a lot of bad private pre-schools out there.

              A recent study showed 60% of Asian American Kids vs. 16% of whites have been taught to read and do math before starting Kindergarten, which corresponds almost exactly with the ratio eligible for a UC or better at age 18, 33.5 vs. 8.7%. If we could get 33.5% of California kids to the level the top 33.5% of Asian kids are now by 5, they will likely be at the same level by 18, or at least closer as they may lose some of the gains due to more lax parenting, but it would make a difference.

              I got my kids ready for Kindergarten. One pre-school did teach reading, the other didn’t. Personally, I made sure they had memorized the 110 sight words, read basic books, knew to count to 100, could write a sentence and knew shapes and colors.

              The flash cards are the trickiest bit. They are very good. Kids will resist, they will say they don’t want to, they’re tired, they’ll act sleepy and 10 minutes later want to play or watch a show. This is where you learn an important lesson, that to have strong character, sometimes you have to work hard at something you don’t like, for yourself, your success, your family honor, to be a good person. You have to not feel like doing something and do it anyways because it builds skills and makes you become a better person. It’s the same as reading vs. watching Tv at 7, all my kids are avid readers, or studying in high school. It’s a key lesson.

              So pre-schools will need to be strong, delay play time for those who look to the side, make jokes, etc. Be consistent, let kids know there is a task to complete before playtime. We’re spending these billions so they can be better, more productive people. They need to provide best effort in return. SFUSD’s web site says it wants each kid to reach their full potential. You’ll never do that if you get in your head early the idea that you can complain and go play.

              I don’t think the whole day should be flash cards or writing or math, but out of 7 hours, 2 should be focused learning, in stretches. The rest can be play, lunch, art projects, story time, colors/shapes, etc. You don’t need to make it like an Asian pre-school to make a difference, but you can’t let it be 7 hours of play, and teachers need to be held accountable for results and children starting kindergarten at the level of literacy and numeracy. If we can teach children to behave well, get along, play well, and have basic skills it’s worth it. I could just imagine it become sub-filled, union-weakened, no accountability play time.

              I believe the kids should be evaluated when they start kindergarten and the pre-schools be rewarded or sanctioned based on how ready these kids are. Parents are a factor too, but the reason for universal pre-K is we take as a given many of these kids have mediocre to bad parents who don’t teach them to read, so the money needs to compensate for substandard parenting quality. They need to drill into kids early that the kids who are reading will have great jobs and a lot of money and the ones who rebel, look out the window, and avoid anything hard will be asking do you want fries with that, even if parents aren’t giving this message, the pre-school can get it in their head early and this will make a difference.

            • Lillian Mongeau 2 years ago2 years ago

              Hi Floyd,

              Thank you for your detailed comment. When citing stats from reports, we find it helpful if commentors can leave a link to the report, or the title of the report so that we, and other readers, can take a look ourselves. Would you mind sharing the link to the report you mention here?

              Thanks,
              Lilly

            • Floyd Thursby 2 years ago2 years ago

              Here's the link on study hours: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110505103345.htm Asian high-school students spend significantly more time studying and doing homework, Ramey found, than any other ethnic or racial group. Averaged over the entire year (including summer vacations), the average, non-Hispanic white student spends 5.5 hours per week studying and doing homework, while Hispanic and non-Hispanic black students spend even less. In contrast, the average Asian student spends a whopping 13 hours per week. Parents' educational levels do not explain … Read More

              Here’s the link on study hours:

              http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110505103345.htm

              Asian high-school students spend significantly more time studying and doing homework, Ramey found, than any other ethnic or racial group. Averaged over the entire year (including summer vacations), the average, non-Hispanic white student spends 5.5 hours per week studying and doing homework, while Hispanic and non-Hispanic black students spend even less. In contrast, the average Asian student spends a whopping 13 hours per week. Parents’ educational levels do not explain the differences, Ramey said, as these become even greater if the sample is limited to children who have at least one parent with a college degree.

              On UC eligibilty:

              http://www.nbcnews.com/id/30393117/ns/us_news-life/t/asian-americans-blast-uc-admissions-policy/

              I’ll try to find the others.

  6. Regis 2 years ago2 years ago

    "Nobel-Prize-winning economist James Heckman found that the return on investment for publicly funded preschool is $7 for every $1 spent. The 600 percent return comes from savings on special education, welfare and prison costs..." Genius! No illegitimate kids, born to illiterate, low IQ, no responsibility parents = No Spending hard-earned taxpayer dollars on Welfare, TANF, WIC, Section 8 and State and County Prisons for their progeny, how about that? And calling it an "Investment"? … Read More

    “Nobel-Prize-winning economist James Heckman found that the return on investment for publicly funded preschool is $7 for every $1 spent. The 600 percent return comes from savings on special education, welfare and prison costs…”

    Genius! No illegitimate kids, born to illiterate, low IQ, no responsibility parents = No Spending hard-earned taxpayer dollars on Welfare, TANF, WIC, Section 8 and State and County Prisons for their progeny, how about that? And calling it an “Investment”? Wow, how stupid is that? How about a “Deterrent”? You have an unplanned pregnancy and you should pay dearly for it. Instead, we’ve got a Government and numerous Government agencies promoting this! How insane is that?

    You tell me, where the COMMON SENSE is, in all of this?

    Replies

    • Paul Muench 2 years ago2 years ago

      I believe if you search the web you will find information explaining how educating women is a very effective form of population regulation. I’d guess it works for men too, but I’ve not come across any such information.

  7. Regis 2 years ago2 years ago

    "A Senate proposal to expand transitional kindergarten to all 4-year-olds would be more expensive than originally predicted, according to a new analysis" No! Say it ain't so! A Government Program that's going to be more expensive? Who would've thought? That never happens! "...However, the new money directed toward schools would come from the state’s general fund, leaving funding for other social welfare programs vulnerable, Steinberg said." Vulnerable? How about the money in my wallet, … Read More

    “A Senate proposal to expand transitional kindergarten to all 4-year-olds would be more expensive than originally predicted, according to a new analysis”

    No! Say it ain’t so! A Government Program that’s going to be more expensive? Who would’ve thought? That never happens!

    “…However, the new money directed toward schools would come from the state’s general fund, leaving funding for other social welfare programs vulnerable, Steinberg said.”

    Vulnerable? How about the money in my wallet, that I’ve rightfully earned? It seems that there is a never ending, endlessly expanding slew of Government programs designed to cure the ills of a population that has their personal responsibility, replaced by a nanny-state.

    Has anyone here seen a Government program or entity, that is efficient? Have you seen any shrinkage of Government, rules, laws, enforcement (like the Toxic Strike Team in Los Angeles, that will go after those ‘dirty polluters’, who also happen to employ people, until we’re left with ‘green jobs’)?

    Now they’re worried about the money? No kidding! So we get this huge savings from what Kamela Harris called the ‘School to Prison Pipeline’. How about this; stop it at the source. Don’t have kids, you can’t raise, feed or educate, BEFORE they even get to a Kindergarten! There’s a money-saving idea! The crime rate will sure be lower, won’t it?

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