Governor Jerry Brown’s proposal to delay implementation of “transitional kindergarten” for 4-year-olds has triggered doubt and confusion in many school districts around the state.
One district — San Francisco Unified School District — has announced that it will not offer the program. Preschool advocates believe it is the only one to have done so so far.
But several other districts contacted by EdSource, including some of California’s largest, say they plan to offer the program, contingent on legislative action in response to Brown’s proposal in his January budget.
Long Beach Unified indicates it will offer the program no matter what. Others like Lodi Unified will only do so depending on what happens in Sacramento. Yet others like Capistrano Unified have yet to make a decision.
Parents typically at this time of year sign up for kindergarten for the fall — and now as a result of Brown’s proposal, for the parents of the approximately 40,000 children who will still be 4-years-old in November, there is uncertainty as to what will be available for them.
The uncertainty is because the Legislature still has to take action on Brown’s proposal — and Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, the lead sponsor of the legislation (SB 1381) that created transitional kindergarten, is opposed to Brown’s plan to squelch the program for budgetary reasons.
Transitional kindergarten was due to begin this fall. Under the law, an estimated 40,000 students who were still 4 in November, and who would normally have been allowed to enroll in regular kindergarten this fall, would have the option of enrolling in transitional kindergarten, and then in regular kindergarten next year.
According to the legislation, in the following two years, some 80,000 additional students who were still 4 in September and October would also be barred from regular kindergarten, but would have the option of enrolling in transitional kindergarten. One rationale is that on average children who start kindergarten later do better academically as measured on math and reading scores by the time they enter 1st grade, according to research from the Rand Corporation.
Long Beach Unified, which already had one of the more extensive transitional kindergarten programs in the state, will continue offering those classes, according to district spokesperson Chris Eftychiou.
Chino Unified will do the same. However, said the district’s Vicki Broberg, “Should the governor overturn the legislation, and not require transitional kindergarten, we will not be able to offer it to our students to the budget constraints we are under.”
San Bernardino City Unified “is going forward with plans to offer transitional kindergarten” said Linda Bardere, the district’s director of communications, but only “contingent upon funding.” In the meantime, it is enrolling students, and will continue to do so.
Clovis Unified’s Kelly Avants said that the district “exploring ways to continue to provide kindergarten services to children.”
“Transitional kindergarten is still in the law, and therefore we are making every effort to identify ways to meet the educational needs of these students,” she said.
Lodi Unified is taking a wait-and-see attitude, said Catherine Pennington, the district’s assistant superintendent for elementary education. The school district has done all its planning in anticipation of offering transitional kindergarten in the fall, but “we are currently waiting to see how the funding of transitional kindergarten plays out in the governor’s budget in the May revision,” she said, referring to the revised budget Gov Brown will announce in mid-May.
In the meantime, the district is taking the names of students who will be 4 in November, and “will invite them to register if we are able to move forward with our plans.”
At Corona-Norco Unified, “as transitional kindergarten is still in law, we are moving forward with planning of implementation next year,” said Barbara Wolfinbarger, the district’s director of elementary curriculum and instruction.
At the same time, the district is holding off buying instructional materials or incurring any other costs until the funding situation becomes clear, she said.
Even San Francisco, which announced on January 25 that “effective immediately” it would not be offering transitional kindergarten in the fall, and that only students turning 5 years old on or before November 1 will be eligible for kindergarten entry,” has also drawn up contingency plans if the Legislature fails to endorse Brown’s proposal.
If the state mandates transitional kindergarten, it will be offered at only two sites in the city, which will make reaching them difficult for many parents in a city the size of San Francisco. But children who have not turned 5 by next November will still be barred from attending regular kindergarten. That would represent a change from current practice when children who only turn 5 anytime before December 1 are eligible for regular kindergarten.
For more background on transitional kindergarten, see these EdSource edposts: