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Funding cuts force SFUSD to cancel transitional kindergarten program

01.25.2012 | San Francisco Examiner | Amy Crawford

As many as 390 families might need to make new plans for their
4-year-olds this fall, after San Francisco Unified School District
announced Wednesday that it is canceling transitional kindergarten, a
program for children whose 5th birthdays come after a new cutoff date
for entering school.

The district’s decision was prompted by Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2012-13
budget proposal, which eliminates funding for students in transitional
kindergarten. The governor estimated the move would save California
$223.7 million.

The program is mandated by a 2010 state law that also gradually
increases the age at which children become eligible for kindergarten,
from Dec. 2 in 2011 to Sept. 1 by 2014. It required districts to offer
an optional year of transitional kindergarten to children whose
birthdays fall between the old and new dates. It is unclear whether that
provision would be enforced if the state doesn’t provide funding.

Brown’s budget must be approved by legislators, who could choose to
fund or mandate transitional kindergarten anyway. In that case, district
officials said they would offer the program at two schools, Havard in
Bayview and McLaren in Visitacion Valley.

Meanwhile, the district urged parents who had planned to send their
children to transitional kindergarten to swiftly secure places in
preschool.

The district’s announcement came two days before a deadline for
parents whose children were born between Nov. 2 and Dec. 2 to submit
admissions applications. Carol Lei of the group Parents for Public
Schools said she was working to quickly spread the word.

Lei said parents had mixed feelings about the untested, new program.
Although some might be relieved that the district won’t offer it, others
must now pay for another year of preschool.

Catherine Atkin, president of Preschool California, called the
district’s decision “unfortunate.” Atkin, whose group opposes the
governor’s proposal, said it would hit working-class parents the
hardest, especially since Brown also wants to cut tens of thousands of
state-subsidized child care slots.

“For parents in San Francisco, this will come at a time when we know they are suffering great hardship already,” she said.

acrawford@sfexaminer.com

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