Transitional Kindergarten Law in California Faces Many Hurdles

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California charter schools do not believe that they are mandated to follow the rules of the 2010 Kindergarten Readiness Act, the Associated Press notes. Rather than offering a pre-kindergarten grade to enrolling students, they have opted out. Budget worries further complicate implementation.

What is California's transitional kindergarten law?

Dating back to 2010, Senate Bill 1381 was created by State Senator Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto). As outlined by the senator's website, the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010 "gradually increases the minimum age eligibility for entering kindergarten to 5 years old by September 1, and establishes a Transitional Kindergarten for those born between September 2 and December 2."

How many children are affected during the 2012 implementation of the law?

The San Francisco Chronicle estimates that the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010 affects 40,000 California children in 2012. In addition to establishing a transitional kindergarten class, this law changes the birthday cutoff date for kindergarten entry from Dec. 2 to Nov. 1.

Why do California students need a pre-kindergarten grade?

Too old for preschool, some parents have not felt that their children were mature enough to enter a kindergarten classroom. These youngsters faced an educational limbo. Other parents were unable to afford another year of preschool and -- mature or not -- did not think they had a choice but to enroll their children in an educational setting for which the youngsters may have been ill-equipped. Teachers have argued that doing so has set up students for academic failure, which resulted in youngsters having to repeat a grade. This step would then "put them at risk of future academic failure," educators told the San Francisco Chronicle.

What do California charter schools say about the kindergarten law?

"It is the position of the California Charter Schools Association that the applicable law, SB 1381, regarding Transitional Kindergarten does not require charter schools to offer Transitional Kindergarten," the California Charter Schools Association opines. This decision affects the 982 charter schools currently operating in the Golden State. The organization's California Charter Schools Fact Sheet notes that these schools currently serve about 412,000 students.

Is Sacramento committed to the implementation of the kindergarten law?

Another hurdle the law has encountered is the budget crisis the State of California faces. Preschool Californiarevealed that during recent budget discussions, Gov. Jerry Brown initially intended to make adherence to the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010 voluntary -- rather than mandatory -- at the local level. The Silicon Valley Education Foundation explained that Brown wanted to keep the change in kindergarten admission dates, but would have preferred to appropriate the $224 million earmarked for transitional kindergarten to "help close the state's $9.2 billion budget gap."

What happens next?

Anticipating cuts to education budgets, some schools districts -- such as San Francisco Public Schools -- have limited the number of locales that offer transitional kindergarten classes. Charter schools have opted out, but it is unclear if this decision will result in a court challenge. It is also unclear if the governor will revisit the funding for transitional kindergarten classes during next year's budget negotiations.

Sylvia Cochran is a Los Angeles area resident with a firm finger on the pulse of California politics. Talk radio junkie, community volunteer and politically independent, she scrutinizes the good and the bad from both sides of the political aisle.

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