Photo by Kevin Jarrett

Photo by Kevin Jarrett

UPDATE:  The State Board rejected all requests for waivers from Transitional Kindergarten. See this EdSource “Quick Hit” for more details.

 

Gov. Jerry Brown’s attempt to eliminate funding for Transitional Kindergarten created so much confusion that a handful of school districts sought waivers from it out of fear they would have to bear the cost of the program.

The State Board of Education will consider those waiver requests at its meeting today, even though TK, as it is commonly referred to in the field, survived the governor’s attempt to de-fund the new program, making the districts’ concerns moot. The California Department of Education has recommended that the State Board reject all of the waivers.

Transitional Kindergarten is essentially a second year of kindergarten that’s geared toward younger children, the kids with fall birthdays.  They often struggle in regular kindergarten, which has become more academic in recent years due to increased emphasis on preparing even the youngest students for the world of high-stakes testing and accountability.

Nine school districts and a charter school in Riverside County have asked to delay implementation of TK for one year. They range in size from the 5,600-student Perris Elementary School District to Moreno Valley Unified, with more than 36,000 students.

As the similar language in their waiver requests illustrates, district officials met with each other over the past few months to discuss the situation.

“We do not have the resources to pay for these costs up front without a guarantee of receiving ADA for the Transitional Kindergarten students,” wrote Hemet Unified School District. “The district does not have the fiscal resources to pay for the expenses of the program without a guarantee of receiving ADA funding for the Transitional Kindergarten students,” maintained Moreno Valley Unified in its appeal to the Department of Education. (ADA refers to state tuition payments based on student attendance.)

Val Verde Unified Assistant superintendent Michelle Richardson said district officials were planning on flying up to Sacramento today to plead their case, until they learned that the California Department of Education recommended rejection of all nine waivers. Richardson said they always intended to run TK, but sought a waiver because they were concerned they didn’t have enough time to develop a high-quality program by the start of the school year.

“Here’s what happened. When all of the insanity ensued in Sacramento and it was on and it was off, it was on and it was off, we followed the governor saying it was off. Then the Legislature said yes, but we lost time,” Richardson explained.

Funding Confusion

Several other districts are saying they are no longer pursuing the waivers now that money for Transitional Kindergarten has been approved.  However, since they did not officially withdraw the requests, the State Board must still vote on them.

“We’re not pursuing the waiver anymore,” said Martinrex Kedziora, assistant superintendent of Moreno Valley Unified School District. “The waiver was due to financial uncertainty.” Kedziora said the district never had any issues with the idea of TK; in fact, they support it. “Anytime you give kids more opportunity in school they do better,” he said. “I can’t wait for it to begin.”

Temecula Valley Unified got tangled in the same misunderstanding over funding. Andree Grey, the director of curriculum instruction and assessment, said when they applied for the waiver “it was during the time when there was so much turmoil about funding, we applied for the waiver just on that unknown situation that was happening.” Since then, the district has enrolled 61 students in TK and handed out paperwork to another 86 families.

The future of TK was thrown into the wind earlier this year when Gov. Brown recommended eliminating funding for it in his 2012-13 budget proposal. Even though the program will serve kids who would otherwise be in regular kindergarten, the governor eyed cutting the $132 million that would move from kindergarten to TK to help fix the budget deficit.

Over the next few months, as it became clear that the Legislature wasn’t interested in killing the program, Gov. Brown offered weekly variations. Lawmakers finally ended the discussion last month when they approved a state budget that includes funding for Transitional Kindergarten.

The Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010, or Senate Bill 1381, authored by Democratic State Senator Joe Simitian of Palo Alto, raised the age for admission to kindergarten and required school districts to establish Transitional Kindergarten for the estimated 125,000 children who would no longer be eligible for regular kindergarten.

The bill phases in the new age requirements over three years. For the upcoming 2012-13 school year, children will have to turn five by November 1 to enroll in kindergarten. The following year it moves to October 1, and then up to September 1 for 2014-15 and on. Until then, California had one of the latest kindergarten cutoff dates in the country, allowing children to enroll even if they wouldn’t turn five until December 2 of that school year.

Simitian is hoping to stave off any more confusion by going before the State Board today to explain the specifics of the bill to members and to school district officials, some of whom, according to the Department of Education, are still submitting waiver requests.

SHARE ARTICLE

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.

  1. Eric Premack 4 years ago4 years ago

    Hi Kathryn: I'd urge you to read the law, rather than Simitian's or others' after-the-fact interpretations. As he bill was going through an unusually tortured legislative process, including unusually extensive floor amendments, the mandate was substantially qualified. Specifically, the August 4th version of the bill, the analysis for which you cite, was subsequently amended. The amended version added the "as a condition of apportionment" qualifier and also added a provision specifying that TK "shall … Read More

    Hi Kathryn:

    I’d urge you to read the law, rather than Simitian’s or others’ after-the-fact interpretations. As he bill was going through an unusually tortured legislative process, including unusually extensive floor amendments, the mandate was substantially qualified.

    Specifically, the August 4th version of the bill, the analysis for which you cite, was subsequently amended. The amended version added the “as a condition of apportionment” qualifier and also added a provision specifying that TK “shall not be construed as a new program or higher level of service.” This verbiage is Sacramento-speak for a state-mandated local program. These amendments have the effect of conditioning the requirement on the acceptance of the related funds.

    Absent these amendments, the bill would (and may still) be deemed to create a huge state-reimbursable mandated cost. FWIW, the subsequent bill analyses add the “as a condition of apportionment” qualifier.

    After-the-fact, Simitian and others are trying to argue that this non-mandate is a mandate, but one that isn’t a state-reimbursable one. They want to have their cake and eat it too (or at least stick school districts with the costs of starting and operating TK without providing constitutionally-mandated cost reimbursement).

    I agree with Preschool California who argues that TK is a boon to eligible kids. It’s also a great thing for schools that have the space and capacity to launch a TK program.

    Unfortunately, it’s probably the least cost-effective way to provide prekindergarten programs one could have imagined. It’s also arguably the most bureaucratic way, including bringing prekindergarten programs under the full weight of the Education Code and public sector bargaining agreements. It’s unfortunate that Governor Brown was unsuccessful in his attempt to undo this example of Sacramento policy-making at its worst.

  2. Preschool California 4 years ago4 years ago

    The law requires that the youngest schoolchildren, who will now be too young for kindergarten, be admitted into transitional kindergarten (TK). Just like traditional kindergarten, it is optional for children to attend, but it is mandatory for school districts to provide. This fall and hereafter, each school district in California is required to offer transitional kindergarten for young learners as part of the kindergarten experience in the K-12 system. This is truly a bright spot … Read More

    The law requires that the youngest schoolchildren, who will now be too young for kindergarten, be admitted into transitional kindergarten (TK). Just like traditional kindergarten, it is optional for children to attend, but it is mandatory for school districts to provide. This fall and hereafter, each school district in California is required to offer transitional kindergarten for young learners as part of the kindergarten experience in the K-12 system.

    This is truly a bright spot for California’s education reform. The law allows for flexibility within the districts and prepares our children for the school years to come.

  3. Kathryn Baron 4 years ago4 years ago

    Eric, I have to strongly disagree with your reading of the legislation (as does Sen. Joe Simitian, who introduced the bill, the State Dept. of Finance and the state Dept. of Education). If you look at the Dept. of Ed's Frequently Asked Questions [http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/gs/em/kinderfaq.asp#E6], Number 6 states: Q: Is a district required to offer transitional kindergarten and kindergarten programs? A: Each elementary or unified school district must offer transitional kindergarten and kindergarten classes for all children … Read More

    Eric, I have to strongly disagree with your reading of the legislation (as does Sen. Joe Simitian, who introduced the bill, the State Dept. of Finance and the state Dept. of Education). If you look at the Dept. of Ed’s Frequently Asked Questions [http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/gs/em/kinderfaq.asp#E6], Number 6 states:
    Q: Is a district required to offer transitional kindergarten and kindergarten programs?
    A: Each elementary or unified school district must offer transitional kindergarten and kindergarten classes for all children eligible to attend.

    The Ed Code says the same thing. [http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=edc&group=47001-48000&file=48000-48002]
    (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
    following:
    (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
    district.
    (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
    district.
    (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
    appropriate.
    (e) A transitional kindergarten shall not be construed as a new
    program or higher level of service.

    Apportionment is not categorical or a state mandate. It is the Average Daily Attendance or ADA funding that school districts receive for each enrolled child. Although the language says “as a condition of receipt….,” it is not optional. What is optional is that parents do not have to send their children to TK, or to Kindergarten for that matter, because neither is mandatory in California.

    As Sen. Simitian has said, it is optional for kids to attend, it is mandatory for districts to provide.

    Another example of where this is stated is in the legislative analysis of the original legislation, SB 1381.
    From the analysis on Aug 4, 2010: [http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/09-10/bill/sen/sb_1351-1400/sb_1381_cfa_20100803_160900_asm_comm.html]
    2)Requires, commencing with the 2012-13 school year, a child who
    would otherwise be eligible for enrollment in kindergarten to
    be admitted to a transitional kindergarten program maintained
    by a school district.

    3)Defines “transitional kindergarten” (TK) as the first year of
    a two-year kindergarten program that uses a modified
    kindergarten curriculum that is age and developmentally
    appropriate. This measure also requires the attendance of
    pupils enrolled in a TK program to generate the same state
    funding as the attendance of pupils enrolled in a traditional
    kindergarten.

    Clearly, the State Board of Education also acknowledges that TK is mandatory, and that is why the Board denied the 9 district requests for waivers at its meeting earlier this month. In recommending to the state board that the requests be rejected, Dept. of Ed staff wrote: “Senate Bill 1381, when passed by the Legislature, was a significant policy decision for California’s early learning system. First, it sets a new state standard for traditional kindergarten admission, and second, it creates a new developmentally appropriate transitional kindergarten offering to help better prepare older four year olds for success in kindergarten and later in life. SB 1381 guarantees the placement of all children in kindergarten or transitional kindergarten and prevents the displacement of any child who would generally be eligible for traditional kindergarten.”

    At this point in time, TK is mandatory unless a court strikes it down or the legislature approves a plan, like the one Gov. Brown proposed this year, to eliminate the funding. The legislature rejected the Governor’s proposal.

  4. Navigio 4 years ago4 years ago

    Actually, the law allows discretion for getting into kinder but the language does not exist for 1st. There is a blurb that the district can let someone in after the first month of instruction for good cause. Maybe that was intended to be the pressure valve. In addition, the law is written from the standpoint of the right of access to certain grade levels, ie not allow districts to deny services if the age … Read More

    Actually, the law allows discretion for getting into kinder but the language does not exist for 1st. There is a blurb that the district can let someone in after the first month of instruction for good cause. Maybe that was intended to be the pressure valve. In addition, the law is written from the standpoint of the right of access to certain grade levels, ie not allow districts to deny services if the age requirement is met. Providing access a year earlier than otherwise–which is what I expect districts will do when they realize the law is probably mis-written–couldn’t be construed as countering the spirit of refusing access. So I don’t think it could be disallowed. I expect the text will be ‘fixed’ at some point.

    Replies

    • Eric Premack 4 years ago4 years ago

      The code arguably allows for admitting a student after one year of kindergarten: "A child who, consistent with Section 48000, has been admitted to the kindergarten maintained by a private or a public school in California or any other state, and who has completed one school year therein, shall be admitted to the first grade of an elementary school unless the parent or guardian of the child and the school district agree that the child may continue in kindergarten for not more … Read More

      The code arguably allows for admitting a student after one year of kindergarten:

      “A child who, consistent with Section 48000, has been
      admitted to the kindergarten maintained by a private or a public
      school in California or any other state, and who has completed one
      school year therein, shall be admitted to the first grade of an
      elementary school unless the parent or guardian of the child and the
      school district agree that the child may continue in kindergarten for
      not more than an additional school year.”

  5. el 4 years ago4 years ago

    Navigio, I too wish the law had not made it so onerous to move kids through in one year if that was the consensus of parents and staff. It is still possible though, as I read it.

    Our district will run TK/K combined, because there are not enough students to fill a TK classroom. Thank goodness they allow that.

  6. Navigio 4 years ago4 years ago

    Hi Eric, I assume the context to which you're referring is "as a condition of receipt of apportionment for pupils in a transitional kindergarten program pursuant to subdivision (g) of Section 46300..." That section, however, is concerned with limiting ADA funding for kinder (or tk) to two years max so I think the intent of the language in the tk law is to make sure districts don't use it as an endless source of revenue not … Read More

    Hi Eric, I assume the context to which you’re referring is “as a condition of receipt of apportionment for pupils in a transitional kindergarten program pursuant to subdivision (g) of Section 46300…”
    That section, however, is concerned with limiting ADA funding for kinder (or tk) to two years max so I think the intent of the language in the tk law is to make sure districts don’t use it as an endless source of revenue not necessarily to make it a conditional program. Obviously, as with all laws, this is open to interpretation. 🙂

    I’m still surprised the law was written in a way as to force some kids to take two years of normal kinder. 

    Replies

    • Eric Premack 4 years ago4 years ago

      Actually, a separate section of the code, section 46300(g)(2) contains the two-year limitation--it reads as follows: "(2) A school district may not include for apportionment purposes the attendance of any pupil for more than two years in kindergarten or for more than two years in a combination of transitional kindergarten and kindergarten." Neither this section, nor the section with the pseudo-mandate (section 48000) actually mandate offering TK. The relevant slice of section 48000 reads as follows: "As a condition of … Read More

      Actually, a separate section of the code, section 46300(g)(2) contains the two-year limitation–it reads as follows:

      “(2) A school district may not include for apportionment purposes
      the attendance of any pupil for more than two years in kindergarten
      or for more than two years in a combination of transitional
      kindergarten and kindergarten.”

      Neither this section, nor the section with the pseudo-mandate (section 48000) actually mandate offering TK. The relevant slice of section 48000 reads as follows:

      “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 following:
      (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 district.”

      Thus, nether of these two sections of the law, nor any other law actually requires districts to offer TK. They merely state that if a district opts to take the TK funding, it must admit eligible students–and may only claim funding for up to two years.

  7. Eric Premack 4 years ago4 years ago

    Kathy, I think the law here is quite clear and that offering TK is quite optional. TK advocates appear to be basing their interpretation that offering TK is required based on a narrow read of one particular sentence in the TK law, and by reading the sentence in isolation, without regard to the surrounding section of the law. This sentence provides that “a child who will have his or her fifth birthday between November 2 and December … Read More

    Kathy, I think the law here is quite clear and that offering TK is quite optional.

    TK advocates appear to be basing their interpretation that offering TK is required based on a narrow read of one particular sentence in the TK law, and by reading the sentence in isolation, without regard to the surrounding section of the law.

    This sentence provides that “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 district.” Read in isolation, this clause could be read to imply that a district must operate a TK program because it is required to admit transitional-age students to it.

    This sentence, however, is part of a larger code section that provides essential context. Specifically, the requirement to admit TK-aged students is a condition of receipt of TK funding. In other words, if a district receives the funding, it must offer the program. The law does not say that a district must opt to receive the funding and/or operate a TK program in the first instance. As such, a district may opt not to receive the funding and not offer the program.

  8. Kathy Baron 4 years ago4 years ago

    Eric, That information is not correct. The law requires that every district provide TK. There is no other option. This is not part of the mandate program. The districts receive the ADA funding per pupil that they do for all their other students. TK kids are exactly the same children who would have been in kindergarten anyway. What it did was raise the entrance age for kindergarten and provide TK … Read More

    Eric,

    That information is not correct. The law requires that every district provide TK. There is no other option. This is not part of the mandate program. The districts receive the ADA funding per pupil that they do for all their other students. TK kids are exactly the same children who would have been in kindergarten anyway. What it did was raise the entrance age for kindergarten and provide TK or a pre-kindergarten for the children who are now too young for kindergarten. There are no additional kids in the districts, same kids, different grade, same cost to the state.

  9. Eric Premack 4 years ago4 years ago

    There is no need to obtain waivers because offering transitional kindergarten is only a mandate if a school district opts to receive the transitional kindergarten funding. If the district opts not to take the transitional kindergarten funding in the first instance, it isn't required to offer it. The transitional kindergarten legislation fell short of mandating it because the state wanted to avoid the potentially-massive state-mandated cost reimbursement tab. As a result, the legislation falls … Read More

    There is no need to obtain waivers because offering transitional kindergarten is only a mandate if a school district opts to receive the transitional kindergarten funding. If the district opts not to take the transitional kindergarten funding in the first instance, it isn’t required to offer it.

    The transitional kindergarten legislation fell short of mandating it because the state wanted to avoid the potentially-massive state-mandated cost reimbursement tab. As a result, the legislation falls far short of requiring offering transitional kindergarten and instead merely says if the district takes the TK funding, it must offer the program.

  10. el 4 years ago4 years ago

    So much energy wasted on so much confusion. Sigh.