Universal Transitional Kindergarten: What parents need to know

Quality early childhood education is a key factor in preparing children for success in school and beyond. Advocates have long pushed to increase access to early learning in California, a state with almost 3 million children under the age of 5.

Now, amid a pandemic and President Biden championing universal preschool, universal transitional kindergarten, or TK, is poised to become a reality in California’s education space.

The state’s new $2.7 billion TK program will be phased in beginning in 2022, until it includes all of the state’s four-year-olds by the 2025-26 school year.

Providers, advocates and policymakers explore the importance and impact of early education and how TK fits into the journey between preschool and kindergarten.

Read more about this roundtable.


Vickie Ramos Harris

Director of Educational Equity for Advancement Project California

Vickie Ramos Harris serves as Director of Educational Equity for Advancement Project California. She is responsible for leading early childhood policy and advocacy in Los Angeles and across California as well as fostering opportunities to increase education equity in the public education system, including supporting the diverse needs of our English Learners and communities of color.  Vickie brings a “community-based policy making” lens to her education equity and social justice work in early childhood, K-12, and English Learner education and has served the communities of Boston, New York City, Los Angeles, and engaged in statewide efforts in California.

Prior to joining Advancement Project, Vickie served as Chief of Staff to the Board Vice-President at LAUSD, and State Policy Director at Early Edge California engaging in local, state, and federal advocacy and supported major policy advancements including creating a new grade level in California (transitional kindergarten) and expanding bilingual education access at LAUSD. Vickie’s prior work also includes research, curriculum and program design, professional development, family and community engagement, and after school and summer programs with the Boyle Heights Learning Collaborative, Families In Schools, Upward Bound, Children’s Aid Society, and the Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program. Vickie holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Pomona College, and a master’s degree from Harvard University Graduate School of Education, is a fellow with the English Learner Leadership & Legacy Initiative, serves on the Children’s Collabrium board, co-founder of the Latino Alumni of Pomona College, and formerly served on the Pomona College Alumni Board.

Patricia Lozano

Executive Director of Early Edge California

Patricia Lozano is the Executive Director of Early Edge California. Prior to joining Early Edge California, Lozano served as a Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and worked on their national early learning strategy.

In California, Lozano has spearheaded projects at UCLA’s Center for Improving Child Care Quality, First 5 LA, and the RAND Corporation, and developed research and evaluation projects to find evidence-based best practices for teachers to work with dual language learners. As a former teacher and associate director at a child development center, Patricia is passionate about supporting the needs of early childhood educators and improving quality for young children. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Los Andes University in Colombia and a Masters in Psychology (M.A.), Child Development Concentration, from California State University, San Bernardino.

Paula Merrigan

Transitional Kindergarten teacher

Paula Merrigan is a veteran Transitional Kindergarten (TK) teacher for the Castro Valley Unified School District and serves as a member of Early Edge California’s Early Learning Advisory Group.

Deborah J. Stipek

Emeritus Professor of Education and the former I James Quillen Dean of the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University

Deborah J. Stipek, Ph.D. is the Judy Koch Emeritus Professor of Education and the former I James Quillen Dean of the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University. Her doctorate is from Yale University in developmental psychology.

Her scholarship concerns instructional effects on children’s achievement motivation and early childhood education. In addition to her scholarship, she served for five years on the Board on Children, Youth, and Families of the National Academy of Sciences and is a member of the National Academy of Education. She also chaired the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Increasing High School Students’ Engagement & Motivation to Learn and the MacArthur Foundation Network on Teaching and Learning.

She currently chairs the Heising-Simons Development and Research on Early Math Education Network. Dr. Stipek served 10 of her 23 years at UCLA as Director of the Corinne Seeds University Elementary School and the Urban Education Studies Center. She joined the Stanford Graduate School of Education as Dean and Professor of Education in January 2001.

Samantha Tran

Senior Managing Director, Education Policy, Children Now

Samantha Tran oversees Children Now’s comprehensive birth to college and career education policy agenda, including directly managing the organization’s policy, advocacy and communications campaigns on school finance, accountability and 0-5 early care and education. She is also a strategic advisor on Children Now’s foster youth and health policy work.

Prior to joining Children Now, Tran was a senior research and policy consultant at the California School Boards Association (CSBA) where she provided guidance to local governance teams and represented the organization on state and federal policy issues, including accountability, after school and school finance, as well as the needs of unique student populations, including preschoolers, English Learners and foster youth.

Tran completed her B.A. in Communications at the University of San Francisco and her M.A. in Education Policy at Stanford University.

Karen D’Souza

Panel moderator; Reporter, EdSource

Karen D’Souza covers early education. She is an award-winning writer who comes to EdSource after covering lifestyle, parenting, health, housing, education and the arts for the San Jose Mercury News. She is a four-time Pulitzer juror and her writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, San Francisco Chronicle and Seattle Times. She has an MA in journalism and a BA in political science and dramatic art from UC Berkeley.

Anne Vasquez

Panel moderator; Executive Director, EdSource

Anne Vasquez took the helm as EdSource’s Executive Director in May 2021. Previously, she served as Director of Content and Strategic Initiatives at EdSource. In that role, she helped shape editorial strategy, grow partnerships and expand the organization’s footprint throughout California. Prior to joining EdSource, Anne was an executive at Tribune Publishing, where she most recently served as Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Chief Digital Officer. She previously was the Managing Editor of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Anne began her career at The Miami Herald and the San Jose Mercury News, where she was an education reporter and later an editor.