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California proposal would make all 4-year-olds eligible for transitional kindergarten

May 12, 2021
Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to expand the program, which now is available to only about one-third of 4-year-olds.

Transitional kindergarten, now available to only about one-third of California’s 4-year-olds, would be expanded to all age-eligible students by the 2024 under a proposal  by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the proposal is one of a series of education initiatives Newsom plans to send to the Legislature in his revised state budget.

Those include additional after-school and summer programs in low-income communities, more than $3.3 billion for teacher and school employee training and $3 billion to encourage the development of “community schools,” where education is integrated with healthcare and mental health services in areas with high poverty rates.

Funding for the initiatives would come from an unprecedented growth in state tax revenues

The windfall of revenues represents an about-face from last spring, when Newsom’s budget advisors expected the Covid-19 pandemic to lead to a severe deficit. Those predictions failed to materialize after California’s high-income earners paid record taxes on capital gains from stocks and other investments.

Providing transitional kindergarten for all 4-year-old children will be costly. Newsom’s advisers say the program, when fully in place, will cost $2.7 billion a year. The budget proposal envisions a three-year expansion beginning in the 2022 academic year, with each of the three years bringing about one-third of eligible children into the classroom.

The legislature created transitional kindergarten in 2010. As of now, only students who will turn 5 between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2 are eligible for the state-sponsored program. Lawmakers have pushed for those rules to be loosened or removed entirely to give access to all 4-year-olds.

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