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Transitional kindergarten program faces budget axe

01.10.2012 | Orange County Register | Fermin Leal

A new program aimed at providing transitional kindergarten for tens
of thousand of students now too young to enroll in school faces
elimination as part of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed 2012-13 state budget.

Brown wants to cut funding for the program, designed to provide an
additional year of kindergarten to children who turn 5 between Sept. 2
and Dec. 1. These students were previously allowed to enroll in
kindergarten, but a new state law will eventually require students turn 5
by Sept. 1 before they can attend classes. Previously, students turning
5 on Dec. 2 could start kindergarten.

Transitional kindergarten would provide up to a year of academic
support, including language lessons and other developmental curriculum
for these younger students. The funding would pay for an additional
5,000 teachers, officials said.

The state estimates that up to 120,000 students annually would be
affected by the age-limit change and be eligible for transitional
kindergarten. In Orange County, about 9,000 students annually would be
eligible, county officials said.

The governor said eliminating transitional kindergarten would save
the state $223.7 million in 2012-13 and $672 million a year by 2014-15,
when the new kindergarten age limit is fully phased in.

The elimination is separate from $4.8 billion in education cuts Brown
included in his initial budget proposal. Those cuts would be avoided,
Brown said, if voters approve a series of tax initiatives aimed at the
November ballot.

Brown said last week when he released his budget that ongoing revenue
shortfalls have left the state with no other options for balancing the
budget.

Local districts that planned to use the state funds to provide
transitional kindergarten include Anaheim City, Placentia Yorba Linda
Unified, Capistrano Unified and Tustin Unified.

In Anaheim City, officials were expecting to receive $3.5 million from the state to fund classes for about 700 students.

“At this point, we’re not sure how we will be able to move forward,”
district spokesman Peter Daniels said. “For our community, transitional
kindergarten was something parents were going to rely on for daily
care.”

Daniels said the district has suspended planning efforts until
officials receive more guidance from the state. If state funding is
eliminated, then “we will have to get together with our community and
discuss whether we fund the program ourselves as part of our overall
budget conversation,” Daniels said.

In Capistrano Unified, the district officials may look at contingency
plans that include extended preschool or fee-based classes for those
students eligible for transitional kindergarten, district spokesman
Marcus Walton said.

Catherine Atkins, president of early childhood education advocacy
group Preschool California, said the elimination of the program would
hurt low-income students the most.

“Without this critical year of schooling, California’s children will
fall further behind, and parents who are expecting their children to
enter school this fall will be forced to scramble for child care or stop
working entirely,” she said.

Atkins said her group is working with education leaders and lawmakers
to help avert the elimination of funding for transitional kindergarten.

Click here for the original article and images.

Contact the writer: 714-704-3773 or fleal@ocregiter.com

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