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Gov. Jerry Brown softens possible cuts to kindergarten

February 16, 2012 |  1:53 pm

Gov. Jerry Brown is tweaking his proposal to cut transitional kindergarten, meaning that schools may lose less money than originally thought

Gov. Jerry Brown is tweaking his proposal to cut transitional kindergarten, meaning that schools may lose less money than originally thought.

The transitional kindergarten program, scheduled to be phased in statewide starting in the fall, was supposed provide an additional year of school for children too young or unprepared for regular kindergarten. Brown has proposed eliminating it despite objections from parents and some education officials.

However, the state will provide a full year of funding for each child enrolled in regular kindergarten before the age of 5. Originally, Brown suggested schools would only get money for children after they turn 5, the standard cutoff point for enrollment.

This means about 42,000 children would be displaced, rather than an estimated 120,000, according to Brown's Department of Finance. The administration expects to save up to about $100 million, rather than $223 million, from the proposal.

Asked about the change during a Senate budget hearing on Thursday, the Department of Finance's Nick Schweitzer said, "We went back and gave this some more thought."

Brown has tried to widen support for his education proposals, which include sweeping changes to how the state dishes out money to school districts, by softening the blow from some possible cuts. The governor's spending plan will be the subject of intense negotiations in the Legislature and among special interest groups for months.

But Sen. Joseph Simitian (D-Palo Alto), who wrote the bill creating transitional kindergarten, said Brown's plan is still shortsighted and unlikely to save money. He also said the program can make sure children enter elementary school at the right age and reduce the need for remedial classes down the line.

Sacramento's school superintendent, Jonathan Raymond, also spoke out against eliminating transitional kindergarten during Thursday's hearing.

"I don't understand for the life of me why we would think of taking that program away," he said. "We have to do what we can for our earliest learners."

-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento


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Photo: Students at a transitional kindergarten class at Carver Elementary in Long Beach. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times