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article imageProtests against California scrapping new kindergarten program

By Nancy Houser     Jan 13, 2012 in World
San Francisco - California's Governor Brown is proposing to scrap a new kindergarten program created by Governor Schwarzenegger, who had raised the starting age for kindergarten.
A proposal that will affect children too old for kindergarten, the 2012-2013 budget has no funding for "transitional kindergarten." California legislation had established this kindergarten class for kids who cannot make the new cutoff date made in 2010."
"An estimated 40,000 children are expected to be eligible for transitional kindergarten this fall. About 120,000 kids are expected to qualify when the law takes full effect in fall 2014," stated the Times.
The purpose of transitional kindergarten
Governor Schwarzenegger's 2010 law had pushed back the date by which California children must turn five in order to enter kindergarten---from December 2 to September 1. The transitional kindergarten program applied to kids who did not make the new cutoff date; applying to kids who would turn five in September, October and November---taught by credentialed teachers.
Without this vital program, by the time five-year-olds start school, they will have a three year achievement gap. Day one of kindergarten shows that low-income children are behind language, prereading and premath skills by 1.5 years of grade level. In contrast, middle-class kids are 1.5 years ahead in the same classes.
Those numbers will be doubled if transitional kindergarten classes are dumped as Governor Brown has proposed.
Why low-income early education is important
According to "Revisiting Early Learning Standards with ELLs in Mind" by Clasp, the need for low-income early-childhood education is affected by two things: one in four children under age six have a parent who speaks another language, other than English; and one child in seven has a parent with limited English proficient (LEP). In California, these statistics are even higher. But by teaching better education to kids at a younger age, many things can be avoided.
- Avoid repeating grades in elementary school
- They will stay on track to graduate high school
- As adults, they can earn more money
- They will spend less time in prison
- They will spend less time on welfare
The years between kindergarten and third grade is considered a critical benchmark for learning. What they learn during this period will make or break them, as children who do poorly by third grade have difficulty catching up. This makes missed kindergarten for low-income children already 1.5 years behind increasingly important.
"For the fourth year in a row, child poverty is up. One in five children--including one in four young children under age 6--lived in a family earning just $60 a day. For the fourth year in a row, well-meaning politicians and thought leaders will wring their hands and bemoan the fact that children, the future of the United States, are living in substandard housing, attending failing schools, lacking books in their homes and communities, and missing out on quality early childhood experiences, according to 'To Grow the Economy, We Must Pay Attention to Child Poverty.' "
Governor Brown's budget cuts
With an estimated $9.2 billion budget deficit, the Times reports that California needs to save about $224 million in the upcoming budget period, followed by about $672 million the following period. This is being accomplished through a mix of spending cuts to education and social services and tax increases. "Given the fiscal situation the state is in, we should not embark on this type of a program expansion at this time," said H.D. Palmer, Brown's finance spokesman. "This is one of the difficult decisions that was necessary to close a budget gap of $9 billion."
Right now, California has one of the nation's latest cutoff dates. Approximately one-fourth of the kids in California are four years old when they start kindergarten. The rest are older. If California does away with their transitional kindergarten, this group will reduce academic performance, have lower graduation rates, and more students will need to repeat grades. Additionally, special ed classes are expected to increase in order to assist the child who gets caught in the cracks---and the child will spend a lifetime trying to get out.
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