By Karen Billing
The Del Mar Union School District is entering the last school year where it will be required to offer transitional kindergarten class — so far. Legislation is pending that would make it mandatory for districts to offer the program to low-income students. DMUSD’s transitional kindergarten (TK) serves a quarter of its population and to date will bring an additional 87 students to the district in the 2014-15 school year.
Districts were required by the state to offer transitional kindergarten beginning in the 2012-13 school year, with the intention of easing the adjustment of the kindergarten start date. The kindergarten start date rolled back one month every school year since 2012 — for the 2014-15 school year, kindergarten students must be 5 before Sept. 1.
“Since 2012, Del Mar Union School District has seen a steady increase in (transitional kindergarten student) numbers and it has had a significant financial impact,” said Shelley Peterson, assistant superintendent of instructional services.
In 2012-13, the district had eight transitional kindergartners and 15 early-admission kindergartners. Those numbers rose to 37 TK students and 14 early-admissions in 2013-14, and in 2014-14, the district is expecting to see 75 TK students and 15 early-admission kindergartners.
Peterson said some TK registration packets are still out, so this year’s numbers could increase.
Earlier in the year, Senate Bill 837 was proposed to make transitional kindergarten mandatory in the state, essentially adding a 13th year to the public school system. That bill, which concerned the district because of the cost of providing an extra grade level, has since been pulled off the table and has now been replaced with the Fair Start proposal. If passed, Fair Start aims to begin in 2015-16 and require districts to make TK available for low-income students. At the end of last year, Peterson said the district had only two transitional kindergarten students who fell into that category.
The district has never received any state funding for TK programs, and funding has not yet been addressed with the Fair Start proposal.