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Transitional Kindergarten Survives Budget Battle in Calif.

Months of uncertainty over the fate of transitional kindergarten in California have ended now that Gov. Jerry Brown has signed new state budget for the next fiscal year.

That means school districts can continue with plans to implement the program this fall, providing an additional year of kindergarten for those kids who would no longer be eligible for regular kindergarten under a 2010 law.

"With statewide transitional kindergarten implementation underway, we'll see greater academic achievement, higher graduation rates, and fewer students being held back or placed in special education," said Susan Bonilla, a Democratic assemblywoman from Concord in the Bay Area, in a press release.

The 2010 Kindergarten Readiness Act rolled back the kindergarten enrollment cutoff date for turning five from December to September. It also mandated that districts offer transitional kindergarten to provide an additional year of instruction to help those children who would turn 5 during that three-month period get ready for regular kindergarten. Districts were required to begin offering 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. During budget negotiations over the past few months, key state lawmakers signaled their support for transitional kindergarten by rejecting the governor's proposal to eliminate it.

Meanwhile, dozens of school districts had moved ahead with implementing transitional kindergarten, while others had put plans on hold, waiting to see whether state lawmakers would uphold the law and keep the program.

Educators in districts that already run transitional kindergarten programs, including the five-year-old program in Long Beach Unified School District, say they've seen the progress that their youngest students have made during the additional year of kindergarten.

"I'm thrilled that California students statewide will have access to transitional kindergarten this fall," Long Beach Superintendent Chris Steinhauser said in a press release. "Our students are making dramatic progress, especially in language and literacy, and graduates are entering kindergarten with the confidence and love of learning that will follow them throughout their academic careers."

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