Lodi Unified moves ahead with transitional program
04.21.2012 | Recordnet.com | Keith Reid
LODI – Lodi Unified will launch four transitional kindergarten classes this fall despite some confusion and uncertainty over how much state funding will be available for the 80-pupil program in Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year.
Trustees, based on laws that indicate the program will be at least partially funded, approved plans to open the program for “young 5-year-old” children who are no longer eligible for the state’s new Sept. 1 deadline for kindergarten enrollment.
The district will open two classes each at Lawrence Elementary School in Lodi and Podesta Ranch Elementary School in north Stockton. If fully funded, the program would receive $417,000 in state money. The program will cost $310,000 for bare-bones expenses of teacher salaries and supplies, district Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education Catherine Pennington said.
The governor’s most recent proposal – which Lodi Unified Business Chief Tim Hern called the “worst-case scenario” – calls for districts to receive only two-thirds funding. That would mean $278,000 for Lodi Unified’s program.
However, early childhood education advocacy group Preschool California said school districts should have nothing to fear. The group’s policy director, Scott Moore, said state lawmakers have rejected the governor’s proposals to suspend transitional kindergarten funding.
“There is a lot of confusion out there right now,” Moore said. “I think what’s important for them and everyone to know is that there is no proposal on the table that will do anything but fund these transitional kindergarten classes.”
Transitional kindergarten became a mandated program in 2010, when California lawmakers approved the Kindergarten Readiness Act and moved to gradually change age requirements for enrollment, according to Preschool California.
Children have had to turn 5 by Dec. 1 to enroll in kindergarten. The state is moving toward Sept. 1 over the next three years.
The law requires that 125,000 “young 5-year-olds” statewide whose birthdays land in October and November still be provided access to public schools via transitional kindergarten – a program that is less academically challenging than kindergarten but more structured than preschool.
As California continues to struggle to balance its budget and fund education, Brown has recommended transitional kindergarten be suspended. The state Legislature denied Brown’s recommendation in March sessions, Moore said.
Lodi Unified educators are excited to move forward. Trustees approved the program Tuesday night with a 7-0 vote. Lawrence Elementary Principal Carlos Vilafona and Podesta Ranch Principal Pierre Kirby stood and applauded the decision.
“We’re going to have kids ready for kindergarten,” Kirby said.
Vilafona said that early childhood education leads to a strong foundation for student learning.
Pennington said families who have children who turn 5 in November are eligible to enroll.
Contact reporter Keith Reid at (209) 546-8257 or email@example.com. Visit the Lodi blog at recordnet.com/lodiblog.