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Preserving Transitional Kindergarten

Long Beach Unified School District Superintendent Christopher J. Steinhauser led educators, parents, grandparents, business and civic leaders in a rally this week opposing Gov. Brown’s January budget proposal to eliminate transitional kindergarten and thus deny up to 125,000 children the right to attend school.

“For our young people who need more time, transitional kindergarten provides that opportunity,” Steinhauser said during the event at Carver Elementary School.  “What I’ve heard from teachers is that transitional kindergarten provides the opportunity for oral language development and time so that when students go to kindergarten, they’re successful.  It is the greatest thing we can do to close the achievement gap in California.”

Fully implementing transitional kindergarten is in accordance with The Kindergarten Readiness Act – the California law that mandates changing the kindergarten entry date so that children enter school at age 5.  The law also calls for establishing transitional kindergarten to serve younger students with birthdays between September and December.

Long Beach is moving forward with fully implementing transitional kindergarten, but statewide support for this program remains uncertain as California’s budget crisis continues.  For the past five years, LBUSD has offered some type of transitional kindergarten.

“We've been delighted with the results of our transitional kindergarten pilot program and have seen firsthand the tremendous benefits of giving our youngest students a smart start,” Steinhauser said.  “Our students are making dramatic progress, and graduates are entering kindergarten with the confidence and a love of learning that will follow them throughout their academic careers.”

The rally kicked off a series of events across California organized by the Save Kindergarten coalition of school districts, superintendents, educators, parents, business and civic leaders.

Supporting the Long Beach event were Preschool California, Families in Schools, Parent Institute for Quality Education Los Angeles, YMCA of Greater Long Beach, Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the California Kindergarten Association, AARP, Los Angeles Urban League, InnerCity Struggle and the Alliance for Better Communities.

“California cannot build a strong future workforce without well-educated high school graduates who are ready for college and careers, and this effort must start with our youngest learners,” said Sonia Campos-Rivera, Education Policy and Public Affairs Manager with the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.  “We support the full implementation of transitional kindergarten.”

PREP RALLY — Ernesto Saldaña, of the nonprofit Preschool California urges the preservation of transitional kindergarten statewide.  "Long Beach has been a leader on this issue for the past five years and has been a model for other districts," Saldaña said at Carver Elementary School.

Slideshow: Preserving Transitional Kindergarten