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More California Lawmakers Vote for Transitional Kindergarten

Requiring California school districts to provide transitional kindergarten seems likely to remain state law now that another powerful group of state lawmakers has rejected Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to eliminate the program.

The state Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee on Education on Thursday voted to reject Brown's proposal to eliminate transitional kindergarten from the budget for the next fiscal year. That vote follows the March 13 rejection by the state Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance.

Supporters say that the two votes send a strong message to California public school districts that they should be ready to offer transitional kindergarten this fall. Brown proposed to save about $223 million by eliminating funding for the program, causing an uproar of protest from school officials, educators, and parents. The state legislature is required to approve a budget by July.

Districts are mandated by the state's 2010 Kindergarten Readiness Act to provide transitional kindergarten this fall. The law also rolls back the cutoff date by which children must be 5 to enter kindergarten to Sept. 1, from Dec. 1. Transitional kindergarten, the first year of a two-year kindergarten program, would provide an additional year of instruction to help those children who would turn 5 during that three-month period get ready for regular kindergarten.

Some districts had put preparations on hold while waiting to see whether the legislature would retain the 2010 law requiring the program. Nearly 170 districts have announced that they would offer transitional kindergarten this fall, according to Preschool California, a nonprofit advocacy organization supporting the program.

"Today's Senate action sends a strong message that the funding and support for transitional kindergarten remains intact," state Sen. Joe Simitian, a Democrat who wrote the readiness law, said in a release. "This should go a long way toward quelling the uncertainty that was out there as districts work on getting their transitional kindergarten classes up and running for the upcoming school year."

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