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Budget proposal puts wrench in kindergarten plans; leaves November babies out of class

Budget proposal puts wrench in kindergarten plans; leaves November babies out of class

Kindergarten students at Wakefield Elementary School in Turlock raise their markers in preparation to write on their white boards during class.


POSTED January 6, 2012 8:42 p.m.

Keyes resident Yolanda Howey had planned to send her son to transitional kindergarten next school year, but now that plan is up in the air and she could be paying $3,000 for another year of pre-school.

Her son’s birth date is Nov. 14 and next school year the cut-off date for traditional kindergarten will be moved back to Nov. 1 under the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010.

Howey had planned on sending her son to transitional kindergarten at Osborn Two-Way Immersion Academy, but funding for the new program is cut under Governor Jerry Brown’s budget proposal. But the Nov. 1 cut-off date for kindergarten will remain.

The Turlock Unified School District had big plans to implement the new transitional kindergarten program in the 2012-13 school year. Assistant Superintendent of Education Services Lacrisha Ferriera was preparing to send out program registration information to guardians on Thursday, when Gov. Brown’s budget proposal was released, making the information obsolete.

Brown’s proposed budget slashes funding for the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010, but keeps the age requirement and it will likely leave children caught “in between” out of kindergarten classrooms for another year — and left out of state-funded preschools.

Next school year children will need to be five years old by Nov. 1 to enroll in traditional kindergarten, unlike in previous years when the date was Dec. 2.

November babies— like Howey’s son — will either have to enroll in private preschool or stay at home. “Earlier this week I was so excited because I heard registration was going to be starting soon, but now I think I will just have to pay for another year of part-time preschool. I can’t afford full-time and TK would have really been a perfect fit for us,” said Howey. “Also, he will miss out on an extra year of Spanish language development. My nephew was born in October and he will get into traditional kindergarten this year and my son won’t get into anything — TK or traditional kindergarten.”

In 2013-14 the birth date for children to enroll in kindergarten will be pushed back to Oct. 1 and in 2014-14 it will become Sept. 1.

 The Kindergarten Readiness Act mandated all school districts in California begin transitional kindergarten classes next school year for children who turn five years old between Sept. 1 and Dec. 2. The new budget proposal removes that mandate but keeps the Nov. 1 cutoff date for 2012-13. The proposal redirects the cost savings of $223.7 million to support existing educational programs.

 “We (TUSD) hadn’t created a budget for TK yet because we were waiting for registration and student assessment to find out how many students we would have. However, up until now, it was always assumed that the cost would simply be split between traditional kindergarten and TK,” said Assistant Superintendent of Financial Services Lori Decker.

The TK programs statewide are supposed to be funded using ADA (average daily attendance), or per-pupil funds.

“TK really is a revenue neutral program there would be very minimal expense to implement the program and it seems like the state is looking to save money,” said Decker. “Now all the kindergarten classes would be smaller and that would be saving money for the state.”

It appears the Governor’s budget proposal is looking to save money on the backs of November babies.

The entire TUSD community is saddened by the recent turn of events.

“I’m really sad about this. I personally met with all the school sites about TK and everyone was so excited and hopeful that this could make a difference for our kids and our community. TK really had the potential to do something really significant,” said Ferriera. “Looking at the cost to implement TK, it would have cost quite a bit of money so I can see how a decision like this would have been made but it is disappointing.”

Allisan Rogers, a kindergarten teacher at Wakefield Elementary School for 13 years, applauded what TK could do for young students — if it is ever implemented.

“The academic demands of kindergarten are much higher than they used to be. What used to be taught in first grade is now taught in kinder,” said Rogers. “By the time students leave us for first grade they have to know how to read and write complete sentences. For a four year old or a young five year old, especially one who never went to preschool, that can be pretty intense and daunting.”

In Rogers’ class this year about half of her students were four year olds or young five year olds.  She said throughout her years teaching there continues to be a steady influx of children who, for various reasons, aren’t ready for kinder.

“TUSD kindergarten teachers work very hard to get the kids ready for first grade, but sometimes you’ll see that they just aren’t emotionally and socially ready for the rigors of first grade,” she said. “I think with transitional kindergarten you’ll see a big improvement with the upper (elementary) grades.

Despite the recent turn of events, TUSD officials aren’t ready to can the entire plan to implement TK for next school year.

“Right now we are still struggling because not all of the details are out right now. We pulled those registration pamphlets today because we don’t want to mislead parents and confuse them,” said Decker.

Decker said it is possible that the state could very well mandate school districts continue to implement TK programs without funding from ADA.

The situation has been frustrating for district officials and parents of November babies. Little did they know that four years ago when they planned to send their children to kindergarten in 2012-13 that it would happen to be yet another budget deficit for California.

“This is really sad, I was really looking forward for this opportunity for my son,” said Howey. “This is a difficult position for me, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens.”

To contact Jonathan McCorkell, e-mail jmccorkell@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2015.

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