School district pushes forward with transitional kindergarten

Glendale Unified school board members voted unanimously Tuesday to launch a pre-kindergarten program for children with fall birthdays despite ongoing uncertainty about state funding.

“My primary concern at this point is we have parents that need to make a decision about where their children are going to be in school next year,” school board Vice President Christine Walters said. “I really feel strongly that we need to commit to a program that we are going to have in the fall one way or another, just like we do with all of our other programs, even when we don’t know what kind of funding we are going to get necessarily.”

During the summer, Glendale Unified and other districts set in motion plans to bring themselves into compliance with the Kindergarten Readiness Act. The law, signed in 2010 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, it requires that all students entering kindergarten in 2014 turn 5 by Sept. 1 — three months earlier than the current Dec. 2 cutoff date.

It also mandates a special pre-kindergarten program, dubbed transitional kindergarten, for those born between September and December, making students with fall birthdays eligible for two years of classroom instruction before starting first grade.

But Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal in January did not explicitly lay out funding for transitional kindergarten, leaving education officials scratching their heads as to whether to abandon their plans or proceed of their own volition.

On Tuesday, Assistant Supt. Katherine Fundukian Thorossian said that what is certain is that the birthday cutoff date will be moved up one month for each of the coming three years — next year the date is Nov. 1. And it does appear, for now at least, that districts will receive average daily attendance funding for those students enrolled in transitional kindergarten, just like they do for all students grades kindergarten through 12, she added.

“As we look at the way in which the law has been interpreted, it seems that a portion of [average daily attendance funding] would be for any student enrolled in a transitional kindergarten or a traditional kindergarten program,” Thorossian said. “Those students would be reported collectively, not individually.”

Still, school board President Joylene Wagner emphasized that priority will be placed on November-born students — an estimated 150 children in Glendale Unified — with October and September children admitted into the transitional kindergarten program only as space allows.

Parents of students with birthdays in October or September who aren’t ready to enroll them in traditional kindergarten should make other arrangements, she said.

The inaugural transitional kindergarten program will be housed at Cerritos, La Crescenta and Marshall elementary schools, Thorossian said. Kindergarten registration kicked off this week.

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