California funding to help young 5s far from certain

02.12.2012 | Modesto Bee | Nan Austin

Mixed signals from Sacramento fuzzed the financial picture for transitional kindergartens.

ease-in programs were designed for so-called young 5s, fall birthday
4-year-olds being squeezed out as the state kindergarten cutoff date
moves, one month each year, from Dec. 2 to Sept. 1.

For next year, kids must turn 5 by Nov. 1 to enter regular kindergarten.

But the same law that moved the date back also gave young 5s a choice
to go to school anyway, using a bridge program meant to give them a leg
up in regular kindergarten the following year.

Transitional kindergartens were mandated for next year, axed in January’s budget proposal, now likely to happen anyway.

Confused? School districts say they are, too.

as kindergarten registration kicks off, administrators have put plans
for transitional classes on hold in most Stanislaus County districts,
leaving parents of November-birthday 4-year-olds in a pickle.

Waterford, Denair, Stanislaus Union, Keyes, Escalon and Hughson
districts say they are moving forward with the early kindergarten
classes and will consult with parents in making placement decisions.

Elementary Principal Fawn Oliver said, “The district is committed to
providing it because we feel it is the right thing to do for the
students that truly need it.”

Modesto City Schools Superintendent
Pam Able said the district will weigh its options, hoping the state will
clarify funding before March 8, when its sites open for registration.

Unified, too, will wait before deciding what to do for 90 children the
district estimates would lose out next year without the transitional

“There’s so much up in the air,” said Ceres Assistant Superintendent Jay Simmonds. “We’re in wait- and-see mode.”

Unified’s Web site says unless funding comes, the program will not
likely be offered. “We will have to plan for both contingencies,” Ripon
spokeswoman Michelle Ryan said.

Salida Union School District is
taking registration packets for November- birthday 4-year-olds, but is
waiting to see if Sacramento opens more state preschool slots instead of
funding transitional kindergarten, said Salida spokeswoman Barbara

State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, who sponsored the
law requiring transitional kindergarten this fall, called the governor’s
proposal to pull the program’s funding “chaos in the making.”

an interview with EdSource last week, Simitian said, “School districts
are getting whipsawed from proposals from the administration and their
understanding that transitional kindergarten is law.”

Gov. Jerry
Brown’s original budget proposal listed $223 million in savings by
canceling the program and keeping an estimated 40,000 children turning 5
in November across the state home another year. But late last week,
lawmakers appeared to be moving toward putting the program and its
funding back on track.

Districts’ best information for parents of young 5s appears to be stay tuned, and stay in touch.

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at or (209) 578-2339.

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