Early Learning

Transitional kindergarten bill passed by Senate education committee


Children race to kindergarten in a demonstration of the importance of the "head start" pre-kindergarten programs can provide. Credit: Lillian Mongeau, EdSource

Children race to kindergarten on the grounds of the California State Capitol in a demonstration of the importance of the “head start” pre-kindergarten programs can provide. Credit: Lillian Mongeau, EdSource

After several hours of testimony the state Senate Education Committee on Wednesday voted in favor of a bill that would expand transitional kindergarten to all 4-year-olds. 

The bill now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee, where its lead author, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, will have to fight for the nearly $1.5 billion it will take to fully fund the new year of public education. Supporters of Senate Bill 837 outnumbered opponents by about 3-to-1, lining up along the far wall of the committee room and wrapping around the back.

“We cannot stop denying the science,” supporting the importance of early education, Steinberg said.

Parents, public school teachers, superintendents, business leaders and early education activists were among the many supporters who argued that offering a universal kindergarten program to California’s 4-year-olds would result in academic gains for students, economic benefits to society and a reduction in juvenile crime.

“I would suggest (the bill) will have an outpouring of support,” if it moves to the Senate at large, testified David Rattray, vice president of education at the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.

However, there won’t be support from many principals and superintendents, according to testimony by Adonai Mack, legislative advocate for the Association of California School Administrators. Mack said nine out of 10 administrators in his association opposed making transitional kindergarten for all 4-year-olds a standard public school offering.

“We’re very fearful about the impact of this bill on public education,” Mack testified before the committee.

He said administrators are concerned about creating a new grade level at the same time they are introducing the new Common Core State Standards and switching to a new school funding formula. A lack of appropriate facilities is also a concern, Mack said.

Several private sector child care center directors also testified against the bill, stating that a migration of 4-year-olds from private preschools into a free public school program could decimate private programs. Cyndee Riding, who runs seven preschools in the Los Angeles area, said districts should be able to contract with private providers to offer transitional kindergarten. Riding pointed to the Los Angeles Universal Preschool program as an example of a publicly funded program that already uses a “mixed delivery” system of public and private providers.

“Why uproot a system that’s working?” Riding asked.

Steinberg agreed that a mixed delivery system would be ideal, and said he was interested in working with private preschool operators to make that possible. “We are open to changes,” Steinberg said. “This must be a collaborative process.

“We know the first draft of the bill is not always, or ever, the final product,” Steinberg said.

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

Filed under: Early Learning, Transitional Kindergarten

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8 Responses to “Transitional kindergarten bill passed by Senate education committee”

  1. Gary Ravani said

    on April 9, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    From a RAND report:

    “Scientifically rigorous studies show that well-designed preschool programs serving children one or two years before kindergarten entry can improve measures of school readiness and raise performance on academic achievement tests in the early elementary grades. They can also generate sustained effects on academic achievement into the middle-school years, and produce other education gains such as reduced special-education use and grade repetition and higher rates of high school graduation.”

    So, the value of pre-school, in this case “transitional Kindergarten,” are well established. There will be those who will counter RAND and other scientific studies with press releases, titled “studies,” from conservative think-tanks [sic]. Then there will be those who will say “forget the value, obsess on the costs!”

  2. Andrew said

    on April 9, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    What is somewhat astonishing to me is that there would be so much support for adding another grade with all of the attendant cost, when education for the existing grades in California is so woefully underfunded.

    We have all seen the statistics showing that California per student educational funding is near the bottom of the nation, even though California per capita collection of state and local tax dollars is sixth from the top, prop 13 or no prop 13. And California high schools have half, yes half, of the credentialed staff, compared to the national average, relative to student population. This makes for extraordinarily overworked high school teachers in California. With tight budgets, high cost of living, relatively higher teacher salaries, and low funding, students lack essential materials and are often taught in trashy temporary classrooms.

    In view of all this, if extra money can be found, why not first spend it on bringing per pupil spending in existing grades and staffing ratios up to at least the national average. Then think about adding another grade with its additional funding requirements.

    • Paul Muench replied

      on April 9, 2014 at 8:55 pm

      Spread the money across twelve grades and it doesn’t amount to much. If we can get a grade where teachers can focus on helping children learn how to get along in school, then maybe the future grades become more manageable. I’ve heard that as a hope but don’t know how solid this hope is. This may be part of the well-designed qualification from the RAND report.

  3. Don said

    on April 9, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    Gary, when it comes to establishing a 14th year of public schooling in California (and the jobs to go with it) you are commending Rand’s data-driven research on the benefits of transitional kindergarten. When it comes to establishing achievement records and the longitudinal analysis they make possible (see Arun Ramanathan’s thread) you’re slamming the data-driven approach. Without the latter you would not be commending the former.

  4. Cherie McSweeney said

    on April 23, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    I have several concerns in regards to this bill:

    The public schools are already trying to provide good programs for children from kindergarten through 12th grade with little money. If we have money to spend lets make the California schools the very best they can be for these children and pay the teachers an appropriate wage.

    Four year old children need a programs rich in all areas of development not just academic. The public school can not provide for the proper ratio of students to children in order to focus on socialization which is the corner stone on which all success is based.
    Nor, are elementary school teachers trained in Early Childhood Development. Currently, most Transitional Kindergarten teachers do not have units in Early Childho

    • Gary Ravani replied

      on April 23, 2014 at 5:27 pm

      Cherie:

      There is a more current post on this site re Transitional Kindergarten Teachers Say They need More Training that mentions the more developmentally appropriate instruction for really childhood students that is being implemented in TK programs. I share your concern they TK could become too academically oriented, but the conferences I have attended and the TK teachers I’ve talked to, suggest there is a real awareness of the different needs of younger students. In fact, state guidelines for TK emphasize this.

      Your comments about the woeful underfunding of CA schools are well taken. The concerns about a lack of training mentioned by current teachers are a part of that very problem. “Furlough” days taken in most districts absorbed any possibility of quality professional development like a carnivorous plant. Hopefully, the increased funding for education made possible by Prop 30 and the improved revenue stream to the state can be supplemented to insure TK can be successfully implemented, general school funding can be improved, and appropriate professional development can occur for all teachers including TK.

  5. Debbie Byers said

    on May 16, 2014 at 11:02 am

    While I appreciate Senator Steinberg’s focus on early education, I question the logic behind taking 4 year olds out of already existing, experienced, quality preschools, and transferring them to the public education system, especially when they are trying to implement Common Core Standards.

    Private sector preschool teachers are educated in ECE, hold California Teacher Permits, have passion and many years of experience working with our youngest children. There are standards, rating systems, and measurement already developed.

    We have Quality Early Childhood Education in place. We need to fund and support what is currently in place not reinvent something that is not broken. There are many models of how to support Early Childhood Education that are already proven. Let’s support what is working instead of transferring our 4 year olds to a bureaucratic, struggling public education system.

  6. Virginita M McGrath said

    on May 26, 2014 at 3:44 am

    I currently teach transitional kindergarten in Chico. I love the program. I am concerned about having even younger children in with the September – December birthdays already serviced. I believe the developmental needs are significantly different in many ways. I liked the idea of two classrooms with one head teacher. I would expect the ones with birthdays prior to September would have two years of transitional kindergarten otherwise our kindergarten teachers will be back to the same issue of teaching babies.

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