Sarah Tully, EdSource

Estrella Ante, right, stands with children performing at an end-of-the-year ceremony for Los Angeles Unified's preschool program on June 3, 2015.

The state’s largest school district is considering expanding its transitional kindergarten to more 4-year-olds – a move that could affect other districts statewide.

Los Angeles Unified School District lobbyists are seeking legislation that would change the birthdate required to enter transitional kindergarten – which provides an extra year of schooling for some students – and open the program up to more children at an earlier age. With the law change, the district is trying to find a way to save preschool slots that may be eliminated in one of its current programs, the School Readiness Language Development Program.

Transitional kindergarten is designed for children who turn 5 between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2, those students who previously were eligible to enroll in kindergarten. In 2010, lawmakers changed the required 5th birthdate to begin kindergarten from Dec. 2 to Sept. 1.

Now, the Los Angeles Unified School District wants to offer transitional kindergarten to any 4-year-old, as long as they turn 5 sometime during the school year.

In doing so, the district is attempting on a smaller scale to do what early education advocates and legislators have been pushing for statewide – providing schooling to every California 4-year-old. If the 646,000-student Los Angeles Unified succeeds in changing the law, it could open up the doors for other districts to expand transitional kindergarten.

“I would love for LAUSD to offer full-day preschool for 4-year-olds. It would be phenomenal,” said Monica Ratliff, a district board member who is proposing the model, during a committee meeting last month.

Lawmakers passed the Kindergarten Readiness Act in 2010 because they wanted children to start kindergarten when they are older, like many other states were already doing. Along with the act, they created the transitional kindergarten program for those children with fall birthdays.

In 2013-14, about 57,000 students were estimated to have been in transitional kindergarten, according to the California Department of Education. Some districts have half-day programs, while Los Angeles Unified would have full-day classes under the plan.

Districts receive state funds for each day transitional kindergarten children attend school – just like any other student – based on the average daily attendance in those classes. In addition, the state has agreed to pay for students who turn 5 after Dec. 2 – with funding only starting on their 5th birthdays – in the districts that choose to offer transitional kindergarten classes for these younger students.

Under Los Angeles Unified’s plan, the district would pick up the bill for students while they are 4 and not eligible for the current transitional kindergarten program, said Leilani Aguinaldo Yee, deputy director of the district’s government relations office. The state then would pay for the children’s schooling after they turn 5.

The Los Angeles Unified board passed a resolution to seek the law change at its May 12 meeting. The change would allow 4-year-olds to enroll in transitional kindergarten at the start of the school year, even if they turn 5 after the Dec. 2 cutoff date. A district early education committee was scheduled to hear an update this week.

The plan is meant to address a problem for Los Angeles Unified: The district is proposing to eliminate a preschool program designed to help children and their parents in low-income, racially and ethnically isolated neighborhoods of the city.  On June 23, the board is expected to make a decision about the fate of the School Readiness Language Development Program, which serves 13,968 children at 290 locations. (See a full story about the proposal to eliminate the program.)

The program now enrolls 3- and 4-year-olds for about 2 ½ hours a day. The district pays for the preschool program out of its general fund, about $16 million a year. But the district has indicated that without funds from the state it does not want to continue the program. If the Legislature approves the board’s request, at least the 4-year-olds now participating in the language development program would have the opportunity to enroll in transitional kindergarten.

Parents and teachers in the program have submitted thousands of signatures and repeatedly protested the proposed elimination, saying this is the only opportunity for many children to get preschool.

Parent Erick Villalta said his 4-year-old son, Miguelangel, would have stayed home with his grandmother if it weren’t for the program. He’s said he’s sad that it may be cut and he’s hoping the preschool will be available for his 3-year-old daughter.

I know how the kids develop. It helps them a lot,” said Villalta after an end-of-the-year graduation ceremony in South Gate.

If the program is cut, there would be classroom space for 11,000 4-year-olds in an expanded transitional kindergarten, according to a Los Angeles Unified School District memo.

But the district has yet to figure out if, or how, a transitional kindergarten expansion would work – how much it would cost, how many children it would serve or where it would be located. It might be a pilot program or solely for low-income children. Board members stressed that they were merely exploring the possibility by passing the resolution.

“I am hopeful that full day TK for 4-year-olds would allow us to better serve this population,” no matter what size the program will be, Ratliff said in an email after the May meeting.

State lawmakers will consider the transitional kindergarten law change as part of a “trailer bill” that will be introduced in the Legislature. A trailer bill is new legislation that would be tied to the budget, although no specific dollar amount is attached, Yee said. The district may have a more detailed plan next week.

While early education advocates support the concept of a transitional kindergarten expansion, they caution that the program must be designed for younger age children.

Kim Pattillo Brownson, director of educational equity for the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization, said she didn’t want an expanded transitional kindergarten to be an excuse to eliminate the preschool program, leaving potentially thousands of children without preschool.

“It’s an intriguing possibility because it’s a way of serving more 4-year-olds,” said Pattillo Brownson, an external representative on the district’s Early Childhood Education and Parent Engagement Ad Hoc Committee.

Ratliff said she supported the transitional kindergarten idea because Los Angeles Unified would give 4-year-olds more hours of schooling under the plan. Experts have said that a full-day program is more educationally beneficial to younger children, especially English learners, than a half-day program.

State lawmakers already have considered a similar transitional kindergarten expansion on a much larger scale. But last year, legislators shot down a bill that promised pre-kindergarten to all 4-year-olds because of the large state expense – $990 million annually.

This year, the Legislature is considering a smaller scale bill, AB 47, that would guarantee a year of state preschool or transitional kindergarten for low-income 4-year-olds. On June 3, the full Assembly passed the bill.

CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to change the estimated number of California students in transitional kindergarten. 


Comments

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Comments Policy

The goal of the comments section on EdSource is to facilitate thoughtful conversation about content published on our website. Click here for EdSource's Comments Policy.

Expand Comments
Collapse Comments
  1. Nicole 1 month ago1 month ago

    My son will be 5 before sept 1 (August 29) but is not ready for traditional kindergarten; how do I find out what districts allow this?

  2. Martha Guiza 12 months ago12 months ago

    I just retired from L.A.Unified School District. I taught the S.R.L.D.P. from 1992 until June 4, 2015. I loved this program and was very sad and disappointed that this wonderful program was to be eliminated. The teachers voted to fund one session from our school funds. I was still sad but very proud that my colleagues saw that the children benefitted from SRLDP! I left with a heavy heart that … Read More

    I just retired from L.A.Unified School District. I taught the S.R.L.D.P. from 1992 until June 4, 2015. I loved this program and was very sad and disappointed that this wonderful program was to be eliminated. The teachers voted to fund one session from our school funds. I was still sad but very proud that my colleagues saw that the children benefitted from SRLDP! I left with a heavy heart that only 18 children could attend. This program was so wonderful! Things have changed but the bare bones and the heart of the program is still there with MANY wonderful teachers! Early education for 4 year olds is very important! I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT A 6 HOUR PROGRAM IS A GOOD IDEA! Many, many children have a difficult time separating from parents and grandparents. It will also be difficult to have these children outside for two hours. Many schools do not have play areas or equipment for Pre-K students. Please have people read curriculum on what is appropriate for 4 year olds. Please do not destroy this program but help enhance it!!

    Sincerely,
    Martha Guiza

  3. Sonia Vazquez 12 months ago12 months ago

    Don't throw the baby out with the bath water! SRLDP is wonderful program. It's good for the students and good for the teachers. Everyone's needs are met! Fewer hours in school, a budget for materials, a parent education component, mandatory parent volunteering, and a full time assistant are among the perks. TK is a work in progress. I have been teaching Transitional Kindergarten for five years. Full day, no budget for materials, no guarantee of … Read More

    Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!

    SRLDP is wonderful program. It’s good for the students and good for the teachers. Everyone’s needs are met! Fewer hours in school, a budget for materials, a parent education component, mandatory parent volunteering, and a full time assistant are among the perks.

    TK is a work in progress. I have been teaching Transitional Kindergarten for five years. Full day, no budget for materials, no guarantee of even a one hour assistant, difficult to recruit volunteers! I am expected to use the same schedule and curriculum with students that are not developmentally ready.

    I am tired. My emotional and physical health is often affected. In some ways it’s like a two-parent middle class home (SRLDP) and a single parent, low income home (TK).

    Why do I stay? Because I taught Kindergarten for almost ten years and I witnessed that one year was not enough for many, especially those that had not attended preschool. Kindergarten teachers are forced to send them to first grade, knowing they are not ready. Most parents and principals don’t allow retentions in Kindergarten. That’s why I stay and why I persuade parents of some Kindergarten children to request TK even if their child qualifies for regular K.

    I believe in TK but let’s be realistic and fair! Use the SRLDP model or bring back the half day Kindergarten model and provide a budget for things like play-dough, dress-up clothes, and craft supplies. And, let us have a full time aide that chooses that as their career, not a college student that is just passing by. TK has potential to be great in LAUSD!

  4. Sonia Vazquez 12 months ago12 months ago

    SRLDP is wonderful program. It's good for the students and good for the teachers. Everyone's needs are met! Fewer hours in school, a budget for materials, a parent education component, mandatory parent volunteering, and a full time assistant are among the perks. TK is a work in progress. I have been teaching Transitional Kindergarten for five years. Full day, no budget for materials, no guarantee of even a one hour assistant, difficult to recruit … Read More

    SRLDP is wonderful program. It’s good for the students and good for the teachers. Everyone’s needs are met! Fewer hours in school, a budget for materials, a parent education component, mandatory parent volunteering, and a full time assistant are among the perks.

    TK is a work in progress. I have been teaching Transitional Kindergarten for five years. Full day, no budget for materials, no guarantee of even a one hour assistant, difficult to recruit volunteers! I am expected to use the same schedule and curriculum with students that are not developmentally ready.

    I am tired. My emotional and physical health is often affected. In some ways it’s like a two-parent middle class home (SRLDP) and a single parent, low income home (TK).

    Why do I stay? Because I taught Kindergarten for almost ten years and I witnessed that one year was not enough for many, especially those that had not attended preschool. Kindergarten teachers are forced to send them to first grade, knowing they are not ready. Most parents and principals don’t allow retentions in Kindergarten. That’s why I stay and why I persuade parents of some Kindergarten children to request TK even if their child qualifies for regular K.

    I believe in TK but let’s be realistic and fair! Use the SRLDP model or bring back the half day Kindergarten model and provide a budget for things like play-dough, dress-up clothes, and craft supplies. And, let us have a full time aide that chooses that as their career, not a college student that is just passing by. TK has potential to be great in LAUSD!

  5. Shelly Duffy 12 months ago12 months ago

    This program would just be an excuse for LAUSD to eliminate an essential preschool program, SRLDP, which gives 4 year olds a quality experience preparing them for Kindergarten. It is difficult enough for Kindergarten students to be at school all day at 5 and 6 years old. It would be extremely difficult for 4 year olds to stay in school for a full day program. I have taught SRLDP for 13 years and private preschool … Read More

    This program would just be an excuse for LAUSD to eliminate an essential preschool program, SRLDP, which gives 4 year olds a quality experience preparing them for Kindergarten. It is difficult enough for Kindergarten students to be at school all day at 5 and 6 years old. It would be extremely difficult for 4 year olds to stay in school for a full day program. I have taught SRLDP for 13 years and private preschool for 7 years in my younger years. Quality preschool programs like SRLDP are absolutely essential and should not be on the chopping block for ANY reason!!

  6. Karen Vossler 12 months ago12 months ago

    Eliminating SRLDP is a mistake. Expanding on the TK program is a step in the right direction however having those children in an all day program is counter productive maybe 4 hours but 5 really? The only reason for it, is so that Lausd can smugly brag that "we offer ALL DAY TK " because that's what LAUSD thinks that's what parents want. Parents think it is too much and teachers KNOW it … Read More

    Eliminating SRLDP is a mistake. Expanding on the TK program is a step in the right direction however having those children in an all day program is counter productive maybe 4 hours but 5 really? The only reason for it, is so that Lausd can smugly brag that “we offer ALL DAY TK ” because that’s what LAUSD thinks that’s what parents want. Parents think it is too much and teachers KNOW it is too much. Come on,go back to your child development books or better yet go observe a class of four year olds they will let you know what’s appropriate. We want to start them off loving the learning process not dreading it. Too long a day sets them up for problems. It is developmentally inappropriate.

  7. Martha gutierrez 12 months ago12 months ago

    I am a SRLDP teacher,my concern is that the new program to replace the SRLDP, be developmental appropiate for the four year old child, six hours is a long day for a four year old child, the state preschool is about 3. I/2 hours, if the district makes it a six hour day, will nap time be part of the day? My students are ready to go home at dismissal time, , their school day is 2 hours and 35 minutes.

Template last modified: