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Kindergarten program might lose funding

01.12.2012 | Stockton Record | Keith Reid

LODI – School districts throughout San Joaquin
County are likely to have to hit the brakes on implementing previously
planned transitional kindergarten programs this fall.

School
officials say Gov. Jerry Brown’s draft budget plan does not include
funding for the new grade level, which was expected to serve “young
5-year-olds” who miss the state’s birthday cutoff date to enroll into
kindergarten in 2012-13.

In previous years,
California children who turned 5 years old by Dec. 2 were enrolled into
kindergarten. A new law changes the birthday deadline to Sept. 1.

“They are saying they won’t provide that
Average Daily Attendance (of pupils in transitional kindergarten) money
to the schools,” Lodi Unified Assistant Superintendent of Elementary
Education Catherine Pennington said. “So, running the program would be a
hit to the district.”

Without the funding for
student attendance, schools don’t have the money to hire teachers and
operate classrooms. Districts could choose to operate a transitional
kindergarten, but it would be at their own cost as the budget stands.

“It’s
going to be very difficult for the district, almost an impossibility,”
Stockton Unified director of elementary education Sylvia Ulmer said.

All
is not lost for districts such as Lodi and Stockton, which have
prepared for transitional kindergarten. School officials do believe the
grade eventually will be funded. Ulmer and Pennington said if something
changes in the May revise of the governor’s budget and the program is
funded, their districts will be ready.

“We would like to go forward with it. We were very much ready to unveil it,” Ulmer said.

A
political group led by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, and the
California Kindergarten Association plan to lobby the governor to
consider reinstating budgeting for transitional kindergarten. The group
argues that not funding the program “undermines the Kindergarten
Readiness Act,” which was put into law in 2010.

Transitional
kindergarten is a grade that serves those who turn 5 between Sept. 1
and Dec. 2. Educators say children who turn 5 during that time frame
often display immaturity and a lack of social skills if they are
enrolled in kindergarten with children who are older, Pennington said.

Transitional
kindergarten would provide young 5-year-olds with a better knowledge of
school structure and better communication and problem-solving skills.

Record reporter Roger Phillips contributed to this report

Contact reporter Keith Reid at (209) 546-8257 or kreid@recordnet.com. Visit his blog at recordnet.com/lodiblog.

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