There will be no transitional kindergarten program offered next year in the Manteca Unified School District.
The reason: There’s just no funding for this program due to the continuing state budget crisis.
The announcement came from Superintendent Jason Messer during the Board of Trustees regular meeting Tuesday night as he responded to the concerns brought up by several kindergarten teachers and parents. Those concerns were outlined by Stella Brockman School kindergarten and first grade teacher Andrew Anderson in a prepared statement that he read before the school officials who were against the elimination of the transitional kindergarten program which, they pointed out, is mandated by the Kindergarten Readiness Act of California.
Messer, however, explained that the district had already received word that day from Sacramento that the state has eliminated funding for the program as part of the continuing effort to trim the $25+billion budget deficit.
The district, he said, “will not be funded for transitional kindergarten because there’s no state budget for this.”
They could “plan on moving forward” with a transitional kindergarten program in the next school year, Messer said.
But, “It’s essentially dead in the water,” he said of any money for this program coming from Sacramento.
In response to that budget cut, a district steering committee made up of three administrators and two program coordinators has decided to institute combination classes of transitional and regular kindergarten students at all the schools in the district at the beginning of the school year that starts in the fall of this year.
Anderson, however, questioned that move made by the school district because it did not include the participation of the teachers who will be directly impacted by that curriculum change.
“No current kindergarten teachers were invited. Does this approach, in any way, resemble what is dictated by the adopted board policy – to invite participation at all levels of staff?”Anderson asked the school district officials at the board meeting.
The steering committee’s plan, he said, “has been formed without the incorporation of any of the individuals that will actually teach the curriculum. We believe that this is the wrong approach, that working together is better.”
Anderson suggested that instead of combination classes – transitional kindergarten and regular kindergarten – the plan should have been to offer “a few straight transitional kindergarten classes where teachers can easily provide a quality and legally appropriate curriculum.”
An online survey of kindergarten teachers overwhelmingly agree that the “combo classes (will) not work” because the classes will be “very hard to teach,” that the “quality of the program offered to the transitional kindergarten children will suffer and not be effective or appropriate as a straight transitional kindergarten class,” and that “having the youngest, most immature students concentrated in this combo class will make it more difficult to teach the regular kindergarten students to read.”
Anderson said the plan recently made by the steering committee “is a lose situation for the kindergarteners, a lose situation for the transitional students, and a lose situation for the teachers.”
In line with SB 1381’s Kindergarten Readiness Act, the Board of Trustees established a district policy on how to initiate this curriculum which states that “the superintendent shall invite the participation of professional staff members at every level in the district in the formulation of his or her recommendation.”
Anderson relied on this policy when he questioned the decision made by the members of the steering committee.
“Working together is better. This would be a win for everyone, especially for the kids. Our teachers want what is best for them,” Anderson said.
He and other kindergarten teachers and parents who also addressed the board remained optimistic about the future funding of the transitional kindergarten program despite Messer’s bleak announcement regarding the state budget cuts. They remained hopeful that the teachers’ concerns will be addressed at a meeting being held today by the steering committee to further iron out the combination-class plan.