California is moving toward an earlier cutoff age for kindergarten, requiring them to be 5 by Nov. 2 for the 2012-13 school year and they must be 5 by Oct. 2 for the 2013-14 school year. Many of the children affected could enroll in a transitional program to help prepare them academically and socially for kindergarten. However, with the California state budget still in miserable shape, Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed killing funding for transitional kindergarten, putting the program out of reach for many lower income families.
According to the Sacramento Bee, the elimination of funding for transitional kindergarten would save the state $223.7 million in 2012-13 and $672 million in 2014-15, when the program is fully implemented, but would deprive 125,000 kids from the opportunity to go to school. Since Brown’s budget would also eliminate 71,000 childcare positions, and there were already long waiting lists for subsidized childcare, many of those kids could end up without any sort of pre-k education, thus jeopardizing their later success.
There is already a significant class-based achievement gap by the time children enter kindergarten (see here, here, here and here), but quality preschool and transitional programs can help narrow the gap for some poor students. Delaying the age at which kids enter kindergarten also improves the chances that they are developmentally ready for kindergarten. However, if they have not been in preschool or other transitional programs prior to starting kindergarten, they may still lack the social and academic skills necessary to thrive there.