Senate Vote Shows Continued Support for Transitional Kindergarten

04.16.2012 | San Bruno Patch | Martin Ricard

A state senate committee last week rejected Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to eliminate transitional kindergarten, sending another message to Sacramento that early education needs to be protected.

The Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee on Education’s vote follows a similar Assembly subcommittee vote in support of transitional kindergarten, which is now required by the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010.

Only children whose fifth birthday falls on or before Nov. 1 will be able to enroll in kindergarten classes under the new law, but districts throughout the state are implementing transitional kindergarten programs so that 4-year-olds whose fifth birthday falls just short of the cutoff date won’t be left behind.

The San Bruno Park School District is one of nearly 170 school districts that will be holding a transitional kindergarten class for those children whose fifth birthday falls after Nov. 1. The new program in San Bruno will be small and start in August.

Advocacy group Preschool California lauded the senate subcommittee’s recent vote.

“We applaud the Senate in joining the Assembly in voting to reject the governor’s misguided proposal that could block up to 125,000 children from public schools,” Catherine Atkin, president of Preschool California, said in a statement. “With today’s vote, the state legislature is sending a clear message that should erase any doubt in school districts’ minds: transitional kindergarten will remain California state law.”

The Oakland Tribune recently reported on how the transitional kindergarten debate formed and why Brown opposed the new law’s requirement to have all districts in the state implement the programs:

Concerns about children entering kindergarten too young prompted legislators to gradually roll the 5-year-old birthday cutoff date from Dec. 2 to Sept. 1. Along with the change, the law required districts to offer a two-year kindergarten program to children who turn 5 between those dates. The cutoff rolls to Nov. 1 this year, Oct. 1 in 2013 and Sept. 1 in 2014.

In January, Brown proposed eliminating the mandate. Districts would have the per-student funding to offer a transitional kindergarten program under his proposal, but they would no longer be required to do so.

Pauahi McGinn, the director of child development for San Bruno Park schools, said plans have already begun to make sure the school district’s transitional kindergarten program is a success.

The district has set up an advisory committee to Superintendent David Hutt that comprises principals, school board members, teachers and a parent.

The committee has met three times since October 2011.

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