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Newsom Proposes Making Transitional Kindergarten Available To All 4-Year-Olds

Transitional kindergarten teacher Heidi Ardin speaks with one of her students at Harding Elementary in Sylmar on April 13, 2021, the first day of L.A. Unified School District's transition to "hybrid" instruction since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Transitional kindergarten teacher Heidi Ardin speaks with one of her students at Harding Elementary in Sylmar on April 13, 2021, the first day of L.A. Unified School District's transition to "hybrid" instruction since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Kyle Stokes
/
LAist)
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Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to use part of the state’s $75.7 billion budget surplus to create an early education program for every four-year-old child in the state.

“We are looking to transform, not go back to where we were, but to transform our educational system,” Newsom said during a Wednesday press conference at a Monterey County elementary school.

Newsom proposed spending $2.7 billion to expand transitional kindergarten, known as TK, an optional early education program for children not quite old enough for regular kindergarten.

Right now the public school program only serves about 100,000 kids annually and about 20% of the state’s four-year-olds are enrolled, according to the National Institute for Early Education at Rutgers University.

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Only students who turn five between September and December of the current school year may presently enroll in transitional kindergarten, although some school districts, including LAUSD, provide the program for younger students.

Before parents get too excited about the prospect of free child care, this new program could be only three hours long at some schools.

“We need to provide more wraparound services,” Newsom said. “We need to do more in the classroom to recognize the issues outside the classroom.”

On Sunday, the governor said he wants to add child care subsidies for 100,000 low-income families.

Steve Barnett, senior co-director of the National Institute For Early Education at Rutgers University, said he welcomed the governor’s proposal, in part because transitional kindergarten receives more funding per student than the state’s preschool program.

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“It is best placed to provide the highest quality program,” Barnett said. “To me that’s the starting point. You pick the one that's best funded and now let's build that into what it should be.”

The current transitional kindergarten program notches just three of the institute’s 10 quality standards for early childhood education. For example, the program falls short on staff-to-student ratios, since there can be up to 33 four-year-olds in one classroom

Newsom said an additional $740 million would reduce the ratios to one teacher for every 12 students.

The governor is expected to release more education funding details on Friday with the May state budget revision.

What questions do you have about universal preschool and transitional kindergarten? What was your family’s experience with TK? I’d love to hear from you in the box below.

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