As universal PreK gains steam nationwide, California has been somewhat ahead of the curve with the introduction of the Transitional Kindergarten grade last year to serve children turning 5 between Sept 1 – Dec 1, just under the cutoff to enter Kindergarten.
State law required each district to offer at least one transitional kindergarten class. But the Vallejo Times Herald is reporting on one school district that has found a way to bypass the law: money.
The Las Lomitas School District in San Mateo County, which encompasses Atherton, Portola Valley and the western edge of Menlo Park – home to Stanford University – earns enough revenue from property taxes that it doesn’t have to accept state funding. And herein lies the loophole: the language of the law stipulates districts must provide transitional kindergarten to get state funding to offer it.
"It's an optional program that wasn't the right thing for our district," Richard Ginn, the district's board president, told the Vallejo Times Herald. "I'm not against the movement for universal pre-kindergarten, but there's no data that it's the right way to spend taxpayers' money."
There is little formal data from the California Department of Education on which school districts are offering Transitional Kindergarten, and in how many schools.
The non-profit American Institute for Research surveyed all California school districts earlier this year and found only 4 percent were not offering at least one class in the new grade.
Most of those said none of the children in their district qualified. The research group looked at kindergarten enrollment data for those school districts and found the reasoning to be plausible - some districts were so small only one or two children would qualify for transitional kindergarten.