California is set to introduce “transitional kindergarten,” something in between pre-K and kindergarten for four-year-olds who might otherwise enroll in kindergarten. The bill has passed the legislature and is waiting to be signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Over at Flypaper, Chester Finn, an ardent critic of universal pre-K, is lambasting the plan. He’s worried the state is introducing universal pre-K “by stealth,” something he opposes in favor of programs targeted at disadvantaged children. He questions whether the program, which is billed as a money saver, won’t actually end up costing more and also seems worried that private providers could be hurt by the plan.
Finn suggests the plan could be part of a “grand conspiracy to enlarge the public education monopoly and employ more teachers.” Meanwhile, however, the California Teachers Association is neutral on the bill, according to the LA Times story, saying they want more flexibility for school districts and parents.
The program is projected to serve 120,000 kids. Supporters are saying it will be particularly helpful to low-income parents, who can’t afford to pay for an extra year of preschool if their children aren’t ready for kindergarten. Often, these are the parents whose incomes are too high for Head Start, but too low to afford private preschool. It also could give a boost to English language learners, one official said.
In a related item, a survey by Preschool California (which is in favor of expanding public preschool access) found that two thirds of Latino voters “think the state is doing too little to ensure all children have access to affordable high-quality preschool.”