The school enrollment process is a challenging and frustrating one for many incoming parents. Finding the right school, figuring out the paperwork required and attending the required school visits are all taxing.
And after Gov. Jerry Brown released his proposed 2012-13 budget, the process just got a little more complicated.
In 2010, Senate Bill 1381 or the "Kindergarten Readiness Law" was approved. The new law, initiated by Palo Alto teachers and written by State Senator Joe Simitian, changed the kindergarten entry age over the course of three years from 5 years old by Dec. 2 in the 2010-11 school year to 5 years old by Sept. 1 in the 2014-15 school year. The law also took into account the children that would be left out--those that turned 5 between Sept. 2 to December 2--by including a program specifically designed for these 4-year-olds: "Transitional Kindergarten."
had agreed to implement this new law in the 2012-13 school year, but instead of doing a monthly transition over three years like the law allowed, the district was going to do full implementation in the first year.
Enrollment for this new grade began Jan. 17 for Campbell Union School District but Gov. Brown's budget proposal puts transitional kindergarten on the chopping block, leaving the placement of these children in limbo.
"Parents and school districts are being held hostage," says Debra Weller, a kindergarten teacher in attendance at the Jan. 13 press conference held by Senator Simitian. "Parents now have to figure out if they want to put down those nonrefundable deposits at preschools or wait it out."
As for the school districts throughout the state (Campbell Union included) that have already begun the process of planning and coordinating the new program at their campuses, they too are at a crossroads.
"Districts have spent time and money, money that's hard to come by, to make this a success for children," she says. "It's so disheartening that something so good for teachers and students ... and now to have the rug pulled out from them."
According to the released proposed state budget, “a decrease of $223.7 million Proposition 98 General Fund to reflect the elimination of the requirement that schools provide transitional kindergarten beginning 2012-13. These savings will be used to support existing education programs.”
This savings, argues Campbell Union School District Associate Superintendent of Instructional Services Ruth Bareket is not as simple as the budget line may lead readers to believe.
Cost versus Savings
Schools receive ADA funds, or Average Daily Attendance funds for each student in attendance.
“What happens (with transitional kindergarten) is that if you’re taking 25 percent of incoming kinder students out and putting them into TK,” Bareket says. "These students were going to be in school regardless."
The immediate savings of removing 25 percent of the students from traditional kindergarten (those that are not 5 years old by Sept. 1) go directly into the creation of the TK program to serve these younger students. By removing the $223.7 million from the state budget but implementing the date change for enrollment, the state will be leaving thousands of students either back at home or in preschool and school districts losing 25 percent of their ADA funds for incoming kindergarteners.
“We believe in TK,” Bareket says. “We think it’s a great thing and we are sorry that this decision was made. This is not our choice.”
Senator Simitian, along with Preschool California held a press conference on Jan. 13 to discuss the effects this cut may have on the current education system, and the state of California as a whole, if the budget is approved as presented.
“One in three kids are held back between kindergarten and third grade,” Simitian says. “The numbers are skewed disproportionately with the majority of these children starting school too young. This is not conjecture. The data is there.”
Simitian continues that the irony in all of this is that he believes that the transitional kindergarten program will save the state money in the long run.
“This is not the take a nap and color kindergarten that we recall,” Simitian says. “Every Californian has a vested interest in the success of our education system. On a purely economic basis, we wouldn’t be paying for remediation.”
The governor’s proposed budget as of Jan. 5 leaves about 125,000 children out of the classroom in 2012, Simitian says.
"This would be the largest displacement of children from public schools in our nation's history," he says.