In Oakland, transitional kindergarten is still a go

photo of transitional kindergarten pilot at Greenleaf Elementary by Laura A. Oda/Staff

It’s been a confusing few months for families with children who are turning 5 in November — kids who, until this year, would have been eligible to start kindergarten.

First, they hear that their local district will be required to offer a two-year kindergarten program for their child this fall (and, eventually, children who turn 5 between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2). Then, they learn the governor wants to overturn the law instituting transitional kindergarten, and that districts — such as San Francisco Unified — are worried they might not have the funding for it.

Now, legislative analysts say that districts will have the per-student funding needed to pay for transitional kindergarten, even if Gov. Jerry Brown succeeds in repealing the mandate. And if the mandate stands, of course, districts will have to provide it.

Jeff Bell, who directs management consultant services for School Services of California, told me this: Whether current law stands or Brown’s proposal overturns it, “It looks like there will be resources in some fashion to have transitional kindergarten.”

Oakland Unified is going forward with transitional kindergarten , launching the new grade at 10 schools in the fall. Yvonne Delbanco, who is coordinating the Oakland school district’s new program, said her message to families and preschool providers has been simple: “We are moving forward exactly as planned.”

Have you signed up for transitional kindergarten? How has your district handled the uncertainty? We expect to have a full story about this next week.


Assembly speaker proposes extension of child care subsidy

John Perez, California Assembly Speaker. AP Photo/Rich PedroncelliWEDNESDAY UPDATE: No resolution was reached at today’s First 5 California Commission meeting. (I’ve posted a short statement from First 5 in the comments section.)

California Assembly Speaker John Perez wants to extend to Jan. 1 subsidized child care benefits that the governor recently vetoed out of the budget, the Sacramento Bee reports today.

According to the Bee, Perez estimates it will cost $60 million to provide the benefit in November and December, and he will ask First 5 California —  a commission created from a 50-cent cigarette tax that voters approved in 1998 — to contribute the bulk of it.

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California’s child care cuts, explained

Preschool. Photo by Laura A. Oda/StaffIn California, more than a half million children take part in a publicly funded child care program while their parents work or go to school.

But the waiting list for one of the coveted seats is 180,000 children long — and about to get longer, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

On Nov. 1, nearly 60,000 children whose families have been off welfare for two years or more will lose their spaces.

Those children and their families are  in what’s known as “Stage 3″ of CalWORKs, the welfare-to-work program. Gov. Schwarzenegger used his line-item veto powers on Friday to strike Stage 3 from the budget.

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VETOED: funding for child care, special education

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. File photo.Gov. Schwarzenegger used his line-item veto power tonight to cut nearly $1 billion from the budget the Legislature passed this morning.

The governor reduced CalWORKs funding for child care, mental health services for special needs children, and a host of other state programs that were initially included in the $87.5 billion budget.

You can find a copy of the enacted budget here, along with a list of the vetoed items.

From a Los Angeles Times story that came over the wire:

The governor slashed 23 line items from the $87.5-billion general fund budget, including $256 million from a program for school-age children of families moving off welfare, $133 million from mental health services for special education students and nearly $60 million from AIDS treatment and prevention programs.

Schwarzenegger did not explain his actions, but a report issued by his finance department said the savings from his vetoes would “create a prudent reserve for economic uncertainties.” The state’s reserve for emergencies such as battling wildfires will grow from $375 million to $1.3 billion, the report said.

Advocates for the poor said the governor’s cuts were too deep, especially after a months-long standoff had produced a compromise spending plan that largely spared health and welfare programs from the ax.

“This recession is a time when people in communities need the help the most, and yet the governor is unilaterally making these cuts,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a consumer advocacy group.

The spending plan totals about $125 billion overall and passed the Legislature a record 100 days after the budget year began. It addresses a $19.1-billion deficit without new taxes and relies heavily on creative bookkeeping, as well as on cuts to public schools and state workers’ paychecks.

Democratic lawmakers fought back furiously after Schwarzenegger cut about half as much — $489 million — from last year’s general fund, challenging in court his authority to wield the veto pen so liberally. The courts sided with the governor, and the bitterness appeared to linger.

Schwarzenegger’s vetoes “were directed at making life more difficult for California’s working parents and the poorest, sickest and most elderly Californians. This is disappointing, but not surprising,” Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, a Democrat, said in a statement.

“Now we know we have no say over it whatsoever,” said Alicia Trost, spokeswoman for Democratic Senate leader Darrell Steinberg. “It’s just a question of how cruel he wants to be.”

Other Democrats were calling Schwarzenegger a hypocrite. Earlier this week, he had held a news conference announcing his support for extending foster care to young adults up to age 21; they’re currently cut off after turning 18. But on Friday, the governor vetoed nearly $80 million in child welfare services, which includes money for foster care.

“It is unfortunate that the governor just this past week portrayed himself as a child welfare advocate, and then within days he devastated foster kids with the stroke of his blue pencil,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Karen Bass, the former speaker who is now running for Congress. …


CA finally has a budget. What it will mean for public schools.

artwork at Oakland's Sante Fe CDC (Tribune file photo by Laura A. Oda)Good news for early childhood centers: The California budget passed a few hours ago (and 100 days late) includes most the funding for child care that the governor had proposed to cut — a threat around which many school districts built their budgets.

Now, districts will have to figure out how to rebuild the programs they cut around a worst-case scenario budget assumption.

The upshot for Oakland: Continue Reading


As some celebrate news for early childhood ed, others continue to protest

If you passed by the corner of 63rd Street and Herzog in North Oakland today, you might be surprised to know that the latest development for early childhood education in Oakland was actually a positive one. Or that the director of Oakland Parents Together called it “a stunning victory.”

For those who haven’t been watching (or riding) the Childhood Development Center roller-coaster, Superintendent Tony Smith announced Friday that the district had found the money to keep open five out of seven childcare centers slated for closure — at least through the end of December. He also said he would place a credentialed teacher at the Santa Fe CDC in North Oakland, one of the two centers to be closed, for 28 school-age kids who enroll in its before- and after-school program.

Unlike Berkeley Unified, which canceled its full-day preschool program under the threat of state budget cuts (its half-day programs are still running), Oakland is maintaining nearly all of its early childhood services — at the expense of other programs, such as adult education, which was gutted this year to save programs for the district’s littlest kids.

This all goes back the governor’s May budget proposal, which eliminated most funding for state-subsidized preschools and other childcare programs. The state Legislature has yet to pass a budget, and so school districts have had to build their budget assumptions around the governor’s plan (meaning little to no state money for early childhood programs).

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Oakland’s CDCs to stay open through December

Highland Childhood Development Center. File photo.

This just in: The Oakland school district staff closed its books last night and found the money to keep the district’s early childhood programs running for four more months, according to school board member Gary Yee and District Spokesman Troy Flint.

As of this morning, the district planned to stop its before- and after-school programs, which about 700 children in kindergarten through grade 3 attend, at the end of the month. Sounds like that is no longer the case.

Yee got a call from the superintendent around 1:15 p.m. with the news. Stay tuned for more details.


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Parent group proposes a “people’s takeover” to keep Oakland preschools open

Oakland preschool classroom. File photo by Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group

At the end of the month, if nothing changes, seven of Oakland’s childhood development centers will close their doors because of massive budget cuts threatened at the state level: Manzanita, Jefferson, Golden Gate, Santa Fe, Piedmont Avenue, Sequoia and Hintil Kuu Ca childhood development centers.

Henry Hitz, the director of Oakland Parents Together, has another idea: staff the centers with volunteers (including some laid-off teachers) until the state Legislature approves a budget with preschool funding.

“Our feeling is if we allow the centers to close, they will never reopen,” Hitz said.

If you want to learn more — and vote — on this proposal, Hitz invites you to an Oakland Parents Together meeting at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday) at the Santa Fe CDC, 5380 Adeline St. in North Oakland. School district staff will be there, he said.

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American Indian center might close its doors

Hintil Kuu Ca in the early 1980s. (Courtesy photo)I drove up to the Hintil Kuu Ca childhood development center this morning (yesterday morning, technically). It’s name means “Indian children’s house,” according to this fascinating article about the center published in 1986 in Cultural Survival Quarterly.

Hintil opened in 1973; it was started by mothers whose kids — recently relocated from reservations as part of a federal government integration program — were struggling socially and academically in Oakland schools. In the late 70s or early 80s, it moved to its current location in the Oakland hills, near Merritt College and behind Carl Munck Elementary.

But Hintil is on the list of seven childhood development centers the Oakland school district plans to close at the end of the month in response to the governor’s proposed budget cuts. Continue Reading


OUSD’s worst-case scenario for pre-k, adult ed

Highland Child Development Center. Photo by Laura A. Oda/Oakland Tribune

The other week, we visited the Highland Childhood Development Center in East Oakland for a story about the possible elimination of state-subsidized, all-day preschool for the children of low-income working (or studying) parents.

Highland did not appear on this week’s list of seven possible CDC closures in Oakland. Which ones did? Golden Gate, Hintil Kuu Ca, Jefferson, Manzanita, Piedmont Avenue, Santa Fe and Sequoia. Parker was slated for closure before the governor came out with his proposal to slash preschool funding.

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