California Law Provides Unequal Access to Transitional Kindergarten
I don't usually do this, but today on the blog I'd like to highlight a story I've been following for a long time and that I just updated on Wednesday, November 4, while wearing my hat as California correspondent for The Hechinger Report .
Here's the deal:
California has a law on the books that provides a free year of public school to children born in the fall, that no one else gets. Which means some kids (25 percent) get to attend public school for 14 years in California, while others only get 13 years.
Transitional kindergarten walks and talks a lot like 4-year-old preschool, and it's offered to any child in California who is turning 5 in the months of September, October, or November. April birthday? No love.
The story of how this law came to be is rather long and twisty (you can read about it in my story), but the weirdest part is, there is no adjustment scheduled that would make the program available to more children. In fact, right now the law reads: "[I]n the 2014-15 school year and each school year thereafter, a child who has his or her fifth birthday between September 2 and December 2 of the school year shall be admitted to a transitional kindergarten program maintained by the school district." (Emphasis mine.)
California State Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, a Democrat, has made state preschool one of his primary issues since entering office in December 2014. He held an informational meeting in Los Angeles on Thursday about Transitional Kindergarten, but the description of the event simply stated, "The committees will also consider what changes, if any, could be made at the state level to improve the program." I was not able to attend the meeting, but will continue to follow this issue as it evolves to see if anyone in the state government begins to talk about expanding the program on a broader basis.