LAUSD more than doubles transitional kindergarten seats for coming year

Transitional kindergarten student Anthony Arteaga takes part in a game called
Transitional kindergarten student Anthony Arteaga takes part in a game called "balloon stomp" at the Richman School in the Fullerton School District on Tuesday morning, May 24, 2016. Currently there are 29 students enrolled in the morning transitional kindergarten group at the school.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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The budget approved by Los Angeles Unified School District's Board of Education Tuesday more than doubles the number of schools offering transitional kindergarten for all 4-year-olds at the district's low-income sites.

The budget allocates $44.4 million to the program, known as "Transitional Kindergarten Expansion," which could bring the number of students up to 7,000, according to Dean Tagawa, executive director for Early Childhood Education at LAUSD.

Last year, the program enrolled 2,900 students across 117 schools in the district.

"This is a huge increase and it does speak to the district's long-term investment in early education," said Tagawa. "All of these programs are going into low-income, or Title I schools, so it really will help meet a lot of the needs in those areas."

The increase in funding will bring the program to a total of 286 school sites as early as this fall. Most of the funds will go to instructor salaries to open new classes, with the rest going to books and materials.

Tagawa said the additional funding would also increase the number of teacher assistants in the classroom to bring the adult to child ratio to eight to one and allow 59 of the programs to include a special education component, bringing the total number of preschool special education programs close to where it was before big cuts hit early education in 2008.

The program expands on the transitional kindergarten model, enacted by a 2010 law called the Kindergarten Readiness Act. That program began in 2013, but came under criticism for excluding children who were born after the December 2 cut-off date. (The program was originally designed to enroll children born between September 2 and December 2, but who were still too young to enter traditional kindergarten.)

Last year, LAUSD began the Transitional Kindergarten Expansion Plan to include low-income children who turn five after December 2. The program is a full-day, 180-school-day program, usually located near kindergarten classes.

Other districts, such as Pasadena and Yorba Linda, also have expanded TK programs, but LAUSD is significant because of its size, said Diana Chun of Early Edge California.

"They are the largest district pioneering expanded TK," said Chun. "As we know, there are many children who still do not have access to preschool in their communities, so it's a way to reach those kids who still may not be served."

A 2015 study from the American Institutes for Research found that students who completed a transitional kindergarten program were five months ahead in terms of literacy and preliteracy skills, compared to students who did not attend TK.

You can find a full list of the 117 schools in LAUSD that currently that have expanded TK programs here.