In January San Francisco Unified School District announced it would not offer transitional kindergarten due to the fiscal uncertainty caused by Gov. Brown's budget proposal to eliminate funding for the new grade, intended for students too young to be in traditional kindergarten but too old for pre-school.
Yesterday, however, SFUSD changed course and announced it will offer transitional kindergarten at two schools: Havard Early Education School in the Bayview and McLaren Early Education School in Visitacion Valley.
SFUSD spokesperson Gentle Blythe told KQED education reporter Ana Tintocalis that this backup plan had always been in the works.
"What we realized even then was that this not only creates a lot of uncertainty for our district, but for our parents, so we decided regardless of what the state does ultimately for next year with transitional kindergarten, we'd go ahead and offer these two sites for families so they could have a clear understanding of what they could depend on for next year."
Blythe said the Visitacion Valley and Bayview schools were chosen because both sites have a capacity to grow, and because they're located in areas where the city's lowest-income families live. She said the two sites together can accomodate over a hundred students.
"We're prepared to open another site if demand exceeds that," Blythe said.
Doug Provencio of San Francisco, who is parent to a November-born four-year-old, told Tintocalis that he feels lucky to have placed his daughter in a pre-school program though his employer, as he does not feel the new plan for limited trans-K classes will be sufficient.
"Almost everybody else is not going to be that lucky and I don’t know how they're going to fit 400 kids into what right now is 40-80 spots," he said. "That group of kids who are born in the month my daughter was were sacrificed.
"I think it would be better if they'd stuck with their original plan, which is offering classes at the regular elementary schools. The district does not seem to have planned this out very well. The state legislator who offered the bill in the first place does not seem to have really planned for what would happen if there were doubts about the funding. The governor hasn't done a good job with this. What they really need is pre-school for every kid in California, so this wouldn't be an issue."
In January, I talked to Ana Tintocalis about the effect of Gov. Brown's budget proposal on education. Here's what she said about the potential end of the state's transitional kindergarten program, legislation that was sponsored by State Senator Joe Simitian (D - Palo Alto) and signed by Gov.Schwarzenegger in 2010:
The governor estimates $225 million a year would be saved by eliminating transitional kindergarten. Currently, there's a state law that requires school districts to start phasing transitional kindergarten in over a three-year period. Many people call this a two-year kindergarten program.
The program came out of the current thinking among education reformers that you need to really look at the early grades, the building blocks of learning, to figure out what students really need. Thus, a really high-quality kindergarten program is important.
Transitional kindergarten is essentially a new grade, created for students too young to be in traditional kindergarten but too old to be in pre-school. Students who turn five years old by Sept 1 in any school year qualify to enroll in these transitional classes. The recommendation is that kids who qualify should go, though it isn't required.
But now the governor is calling for, basically, the revocation of this state law. A lot of districts are already piloting these programs, and now they're being told they won't have the money to keep those classes intact if Brown's proposal goes through. And a number of districts, including Sacramento, San Francisco and Oakland have already rolled out these classes as part of a pilot program.
For many parents who don't quality for a state pre-school program or don't have the money for private school, that will be a hardship.
Information on the application process for transitional kindergarten, from SFUSD's web site:
At this time the SFUSD Educational Placement Center is accepting applications from parents who wish to enroll their child in a TK program at these two sites. SFUSD will guarantee a TK placement at one of these two schools. If these schools become fully enrolled, SFUSD will offer every eligible student a TK placement at another SFUSD Early Education school.
Next Steps for Parents interested in TK at Havard or McLaren Early Education schools:
If you have already submitted an enrollment application for Transitional Kindergarten and would like to enroll your child in TK at an Early Education school, please indicate on the supplemental Early Education School TK Enrollment form your order of preference for Havard and McLaren Early Education school.
If you have not already submitted an enrollment application and you would like to enroll in Transitional Kindergarten at an Early Education school, please submit the regular Kindergarten enrollment form and the supplemental Early Education School TK Enrollment form stating your order of preference for Havard and McLaren Early Education schools.
Please submit your application for TK by May 25, 2012. Notification of assignment will be mailed out to families by June 1, 2012.
More info for families who want to send their kids to transitional kindergarten:
How do I hold a spot for my child in TK at Havard and/or McLaren Early Education schools?
At this time the SFUSD Educational Placement Center is accepting applications from parents who wish to enroll their child in a TK program Havard or McLaren. Families should complete both the general enrollment application and the TK supplemental form.
What if more families want to go to Havard or McLaren for TK than there are spaces available?
Havard and McLaren Early Education Schools have room to grow. If there are more requests for a site than spaces available, the SFUSD Kindergarten tie-breakers will be used to determine placement. If more families request TK than there are spaces available at both sites, then another site may be identified.
SFUSD also says it will "notify any parent who has requested a TK slot to determine whether or not they wish to enroll in TK at Havard or McLaren Early Education schools."