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Funding cuts force SFUSD to cancel transitional kindergarten program

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School’s out: Officials say working-class parents will be hit hardest by the cancellation of San Francisco’s transitional kindergarten program.
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As many as 390 families might need to make new plans for their 4-year-olds this fall, after San Francisco Unified School District announced Wednesday that it is canceling transitional kindergarten, a program for children whose 5th birthdays come after a new cutoff date for entering school.

The district’s decision was prompted by Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2012-13 budget proposal, which eliminates funding for students in transitional kindergarten. The governor estimated the move would save California $223.7 million.

The program is mandated by a 2010 state law that also gradually increases the age at which children become eligible for kindergarten, from Dec. 2 in 2011 to Sept. 1 by 2014. It required districts to offer an optional year of transitional kindergarten to children whose birthdays fall between the old and new dates. It is unclear whether that provision would be enforced if the state doesn’t provide funding.

Brown’s budget must be approved by legislators, who could choose to fund or mandate transitional kindergarten anyway. In that case, district officials said they would offer the program at two schools, Havard in Bayview and McLaren in Visitacion Valley.

Meanwhile, the district urged parents who had planned to send their children to transitional kindergarten to swiftly secure places in preschool.

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The district’s announcement came two days before a deadline for parents whose children were born between Nov. 2 and Dec. 2 to submit admissions applications. Carol Lei of the group Parents for Public Schools said she was working to quickly spread the word.

Lei said parents had mixed feelings about the untested, new program. Although some might be relieved that the district won’t offer it, others must now pay for another year of preschool.

Catherine Atkin, president of Preschool California, called the district’s decision “unfortunate.” Atkin, whose group opposes the governor’s proposal, said it would hit working-class parents the hardest, especially since Brown also wants to cut tens of thousands of state-subsidized child care slots.

“For parents in San Francisco, this will come at a time when we know they are suffering great hardship already,” she said.

acrawford@sfexaminer.com

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