January 8, 2014: Tom Torklason, state Superintendent of Public Instruction, is a co-sponsor, with Early Edge California (formerly, California Preschool), of SB 837, legislation introduced yesterday by state Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) to create a voluntary preschool for 4-year-olds in a roll-out that would begin in the 2015-16 school year and be universal by 2019-2010. The program is estimated to cost around $990 million/year. The bill's declaration of worthiness states, "If California were to invest in high-quality preschool programs, the savings in the prison system alone are estimated to reach $1.1 billion per year due to reducing the prison population by 13,000 prisoners."
One of the interesting aspects of SB 837 is the inclusion of private preschool providers as potential subcontractors to the local school district. (Read the full bill here.) "The bill would authorize a school district or charter school administering transitional kindergarten to contract with a public local agency or private local provider, or both, to participate in the delivery of transitional kindergarten. The bill would require a private local provider participating in the delivery of transitional kindergarten to be considered a public school employer, as defined, for certain purposes."
Those "certain purposes" refers to the unionization of employees (For purposes of establishing collective bargaining rights for employees of a private local provider of transitional kindergarten pursuant to the terms of an agreement with the administering school district or charter school...")
The bill would also require that the teachers be certified as required by public school standards (" On or before July 1, 2015, all transitional kindergarten classes shall be taught by a teacher who holds, at a minimum, an associate degree, and has a professional development plan that provides for a baccalaureate degree with at least 24 units in early childhood education and a teaching credential by July 1, 2019. ... On or before July 1, 2019, all transitional kindergarten classes shall be taught by a teacher who holds a [BA/BS] degree with at least 24 units in early childhood education and a teaching credential.")
Further, the bill states: "To encourage the efficient use of existing facilities, transitional kindergarten may be operated using available classroom space at a public school site meeting kindergarten classroom requirements, or at any public or private facility that has a child care license for age-eligible children, as defined in Division 12 of Title 22 of the California Code of Regulations."
The bill calls or folding the existing state-funded program of transitional kindergarten into the proposed broader "all fours" class. (The transitional kindergarten bill, also authored by Steinberg as the Kindergarten Readiness Act, was passed in 2009 and first classes began in the 2012-2013 school year in 89% of the state's public school districts. Current TK, which serves only a fraction of the state's 500,000 4-year-olds, was written for "late fours," those childen who just missed the cut-off birthdate to enroll in "regular" kindergarten, which is for 5-year-olds.)
Standards and LCAP
On or before July 1, 2016, the [state Superintendent of Public Instruction] shall develop, and the state board shall adopt, transitional kindergarten standards, curriculum frameworks, and instructional materials that include, but are not limited to, social-emotional development, English language arts, English language development, mathematics, and science, that are based on the California Preschool Learning
Foundations and aligned to kindergarten education content standards. On or before January 31, 2017, the state board shall revise the local control and accountability plan [LCAP] template... to include any changes necessary to reflect the provision of high-quality transitional kindergarten to all eligible children.."
Announcing the legislation at H.W. Harkness Elementary School in Sacramento, Torlakson said, "It’s impossible to overstate how important these early years are to a child’s future success in school. Transitional kindergarten—particularly a full-year, full-day* program—can make all the difference, especially for families who may be struggling to give their young children these valuable learning opportunities.”
*Note: According to Paul Miller of Kidango," The proposed program is a half-day, 3-hour minimum program. No need for double session. The language is a legal one relating to the status of the certified teacher and how they are paid under the law as half time or full time employees."
)According to Lillian Mongeau, writing on EdSource, money to pay for the new program would come from revenues set aside under the voter-approved Proposition 98, which sets a minimum funding guarantee for the state’s schools. Steinberg said schools are projected to have an additional $7.1 million for Prop. 98 in the budget year that starts July 1. However, other educational programs will be vying for those dollars as well, including community colleges and K-12 districts...Steinberg said he’s had “good conversations” with the governor regarding the new legislation. But Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, chair of the Black Caucus and a supporter of the bill, was less optimistic about the governor’s likely support. Early education, she said, “is not an area (Brown) has been sensitive to.”
Republican Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, wasn’t ready to support the proposal, noting that he hadn’t yet seen any evidence that transitional kindergarten improved academic outcomes for children... [Easy-upgrade for Huff can be read here.]