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Transitional kindergarten debate: Required or not?

Original post made on Oct 21, 2013

In June 2012 Phil and Christie Kiekhaefer moved from Redwood City to Menlo Park, downsizing their family of four into a tiny two-bedroom, one-bath rental they owned, because they felt the Las Lomitas School District would provide a superior education for their children.


Read the full story here Web Link posted Sunday, October 20, 2013, 11:19 PM

Comments (32)

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Posted by LLESD parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 21, 2013 at 1:07 pm

If the clear intent of the law was to provide transition Kindergarten for the young 5's, why is LLESD dodging this responsibility? Do they assume because its population is largely wealthy that everyone can afford to send kids to private pre-K? What about house poor families, not to mention Tinsley families?


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Posted by LLESD parent
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Oct 21, 2013 at 2:43 pm

I like the leadership and sense of community the Woodside School is showing.


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Posted by Failing Grade for Menlo Park School =s
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 21, 2013 at 4:04 pm

You're kidding me, right? The school is going to violate STATE law and not offer a Transitional Kindergarten program in Menlo Park - and then wait to get sued? What an incredibly misinformed and unethical decision. The school board needs to get on this ASAP and make sure that the students are provided with a T-K program BEFORE the district gets sued by the State. Mr. Ginn is bad news for the school district, and the Board needs to talk to a competent attorney about how to proceed before it's too late.


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Posted by Ginn-less
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Oct 21, 2013 at 9:42 pm

Mr. Ginn's comments are asinine. It's not about giving these kids "an extra year." The 25% of kids he refers to would have been entitled to attend kindergarten prior to the change in law to the new cut off date. The change in law adversely affects these kids!

This is the same board that approved the $60M bond measure when terminating the Phillips Brooks School lease and taking that space back would be far more cost effective (see financial information, for example, at Web Link).

Mr. Ginn - let's not give kids the public school education they are entitled to, but let's subsidize the private school kids in your district with a nice big bond measure!


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Posted by MD
a resident of Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on Oct 22, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Our family was told there would be transitional Kindergarten as well. We pulled our child out of a private school, lost our deposit and place in the school in anticipation of attending the transitional kindergarten at Las Lomitas only to be told that the program had been canceled shortly before the school year began.


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Posted by Frustrated
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 22, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Joe Simitian is completely irresponsible in enacting legislation that created this problem and then not following through with fixing the consequences. Asking parents to persuade the school board to comply with the law or to sue is no fix at all.


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Posted by Live and Learn
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Oct 22, 2013 at 12:40 pm

I am not surprised those who believe they can better themselves and their children by keeping up with the Jones's, miss an enormous opportinity to better the school right in their neighborhood. But with RCSD taking top performing kids and encouraging them to go to their 'academy', only hurts the diversity of children in the long run.

How is the family enjoying the rental? Was it worth it?


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Posted by MPCSD parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 22, 2013 at 8:21 pm

It's not just Las Lomitas. Menlo Park City School District is doing the same. We attended an informational meeting last year informing us of the TK program. Then, after many of us gave up spots at our preschools, they announced that the TK students would be scattered amongst the kindergarten classes. Sounds like it is their way of killing the program on this side of town as well. I'm sure we can expect a similar announcement for next year.


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Posted by LMAO
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Oct 22, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Lawyers have reviewed the text of the Kinder Readiness Act and found there to be no legal mandate for TK, even though that was clearly the intention of the bill. I am not surprised that Joe Simitian didn't even know what the text of his law said, given how bad his math and logic was.

Whatever one thinks of the Act, one thing was clear. The authors of the bill either couldn't do simple math or blatantly lied to the California public. They claimed $700M in ANNUAL cost savings to schools statewide from the 100,000 students whose entry into Kindergarten would be delayed. The stupidity of that claim lay in two faults. The first is the notion that money was being "saved" by delaying Kinder entry. It wasn't being saved, costs were just being delayed by one year. The 100,000 students weren't taken out of circulation. The second fallacy was in the notion of lower expenditures at all, since districts were supposed to create a new TK program for the 100,000 pre-K students. New programs cost money.

Delaying Kinder entry might be a good idea, although I know numerous children born in the fall who entered Kindergarten at the age of 4 and are currently thriving in middle school and high school. But when the authors tried to sell it on the basis of non-existent cost savings, I lost all respect for them. And given the failed logic of the cost savings argument, I am not surprised by the ambiguity of the text.


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Posted by Common Sense
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Oct 22, 2013 at 10:05 pm

Las Lomitas is doing the right and fair thing with taxpayer money. Providing an extra year of Kindergarten for only the oldest fourth of students makes absolutely no sense at all. I applaud Las Lomitas for standing up to all of this and using our taxpayer funds in a way that provides the most benefit to ALL students. If two years of Kindergarten is really needed for students, then it should be available to ALL students. Why should the district have to take away resources from all the other students to provide what is essentially just a year of free childcare to the oldest 1/4 of kids who all the data show are the LEAST likely to need extra help. This is not just wasteful, it's unfair.


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Posted by LLESD voter
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Oct 23, 2013 at 8:51 am

If LLESD is side-stepping this law, why should it get extra funding through S? That doesn't seem right.


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Posted by long time resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Oct 23, 2013 at 10:38 am

LLESD is not "side-stepping" the law according to the San Mateo County lawyers quoted in the article, and I for one really appreciate that LLESD is trying to do what's best for all kids. As the parent of a child who is among the youngest 3/4ths of kids who don't qualify for getting an extra year of Kindergarten under this ill-conceived "transitional kindergarten" legislation, it really makes me angry to think that our education dollars would be spent by in such an unfair way. Haven't they read Malcolm Gladwell's book "Outliers"? The oldest kids are the ones who are statistically the most advantaged already. Thank you Las Lomitas for providing some sanity and not being bullied into wasting public money.


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Posted by Concerned
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 23, 2013 at 11:57 am

I find a lot of the comments above very unfair to the caring parents and educators at Las Lomitas, and the people donating their time to education (ie their Board). These parents and educators are people who have committed their entire lives to education and children. Mr. Ginn's comments are not asinine. Those very few children WOULD get nine years of schooling on uncle Sam, while the other 95% would get 8 years--irrespective of financial need. The rest of us pay for preschool, and wish we didn't have to also. When you change a date, there is a brief transitional time. Starting a whole new expensive program is one option, but not the only caring or good idea or choice, and do not act like you have final say on the law when lawyers see it very differently. Second, re 'not surprising they would not choose the closest high school.' I'm sure Woodside can provide a great education and Man and Superman probably was very unfair to that school, I do not doubt it, but we made sacrifices and choices, scrimped to live in the M/A district believing that that school was what we wanted for our kids. When education and your kids are your first priority that is part of what you think about everyday and when when you choose where to live, how to spend or not spend your money, what jobs to do with your time, and so on. You DO care. Changing the boundaries is undercutting our lives and decisions and of course we want to believe in what we were told when we made those choices (ie to live here when we could live very differently most anywhere else, including in Redwood City, or could have worked less and gone on vacation, etc). Not to say these issues are not super knotty, hard, and very very deep seated and complicated, and some parents absolutely are making obnoxious comments...but it is facile and unfair to dismiss people who care deeply about parenting, education, hard work and schools. We all do.


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Posted by long time resident
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Oct 23, 2013 at 12:20 pm

To "Concerned": SUHSD's superintendent made it very clear at the Las Lomitas community meeting last week his plan keeps all of the Las Lomitas district feeding into MA. Of course, any Las Lomitas parent who prefers to send their child to Woodside can still do so easily as is currently the case through open enrollment.


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Posted by Live and Learn
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Oct 23, 2013 at 12:28 pm

@ Concerned..." sacrafices and choices, scrimped to live in the M/A district" versus living where else? Whom would you Not want to live next to? Schools and their districs are only as successful as parents are involved and hold them accountable. But the snobs and bigots appear to thrive in every neighborhood. What Lesson can be learned from this?


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Posted by Very Concerned
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 23, 2013 at 4:06 pm

@Common Sense, @Concerned. I just want to correct the fallacy and misunderstanding that the parents of the newly categorized Young-5s are seeking an extra year of "free" education. That is simply not the case. My child was born in early November 2009 and under the legislation existing at that time, would have been entitled to enroll in kindergarten in 2014. However, the law changed shortly after my child was born. Consequently, my child is not entitled to enroll in kindergarten (in the absence of an exception) until 2015. The law has mandated my child's "red-shirting." To specifically address this issue, the legislation proposed by Mr. Simitian included provisions for transitional kindergarten since there is a class of children (albeit small) who are effectively being deprived of a year of kindergarten by the legislatively mandated kindergarten delayed start date. If my child could start in 2014, we would enroll, but my child cannot.

Some parents are fortunate enough to have the resources to send their children to private programs but what about the low income children whose parents can't afford alternative programs? There is no doubt that those children and even the children in the "wealthier" areas that are part of the newly categorized "Young-5s" are being denied a year of schooling; not being conferred with a year of "free schooling."

This is what Mr. Ginn and even Mr. Simitian fail to understand. It is irresponsible to leave these children behind.

Lastly, I don't see how any of the above posted comments are unfair or impugn the parents, public school educators or school board. There is definitely a gap here between the intent and effect of the law.

Mr. Ginn and Mr. Simitian need to be more proactive to address and redress the failure to act.


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Posted by local parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 23, 2013 at 5:04 pm

I wonder if Mr. Ginn ever considers the children who every year are retained in kindergarten. Having a transitional class would be wonderful and economical in terms of educating children who are of age to attend kindergarten but because of maturity or disabilities repeat with a different teacher. If Woodside and Portola Valley offer it, and if Menlo Park schools offer full school day for their kinder through second graders, why can't Las Lomitas? If we can give them ipads, can't give them better actual learning conditions?


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Posted by agree with Las Lomitas
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 23, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Local Parent:

You are mixing apples and oranges.

The issue at hand is whether the oldest 1/4th of students have a special need to have 14 years of public schooling instead of the regular 13. I do not see how anyone can make a rational case the the oldest students are somehow disadvantaged and need an extra year of Kindergarten to be ready to start Kindergarten!

If you believe that all children need free preschool, then you should be advocating for ALL children to get free preschool -- not just the ones that happen to have fall birthdays.

If you believe that the new age cutoffs (which finally correspond to the rest of the country) are forcing you to "redshirt" your child, and that your child would benefit by start Kindergarten earlier than the new Sept 1 age cutoff allows, all you have to do is go talk to the Principal at Las Lomitas and initiate the process for early entry to Kindergarten. But bear in mind that this means your child will go on to first grade the following year and always be among the youngest in his or her class. That's your choice -- have at it.


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Posted by Matter of Law
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 23, 2013 at 8:31 pm

The fact of the matter is that transitional kindergarten is mandated by law. How counsel can interpret what is expressly mandated by law as being permissive is beyond me when the California Department of Education states on its own website that the offering of transitional kindergarten is mandatory. See Web Link.


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Posted by Alternatives?
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 23, 2013 at 8:49 pm

@Agree with Los Lomitas. The solution you propose is not a solution. The district has also taken the position that early enrollment is prohibited by law and will make no exceptions. I guess Los Lomitas has decided to selectively enforce the law.

To all locals who are in support of the decision not to offer transitional kindergarten, I would ask what you would do as a parent in this circumstance. Would you do nothing despite what the law says? Would you just pay for a private education or would you fight for the right to transitional kindergarten? Even less affluent districts have been able to offer transitional kindergarten. Why not Los Lomitas?


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Posted by read the article
a resident of La Entrada School
on Oct 23, 2013 at 9:55 pm

Alternatives, The legislature is the governing body on this issue, and according to the article, San Mateo County counsel says that the law itself does not say it is mandatory.


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Posted by LLESD parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 23, 2013 at 10:34 pm

The clear intent of the law is to offer transitional kindergarten as a result of the change in cut-off date for kindergartners. If challenged, LLESD would be hard-pressed to squeeze through the loophole the asst counsel at the county board has cited. From a legal standpoint, the LLESD position is untenable. Beyond that, there is an arrogance in its position, and if it holds to its no TK guns the kids in real need of TK--the Tinsley kids--will be at a clear disadvantage. All the affluent kids in the district will be fine either way, but Tinsley kids and families who are house poor and stretched financially to be in this district will suffer. That other affluent districts (like Woodside and PV) have found ways to make this work and are happy about the results--not to mention the 96% of districts in CA who have willingly complied b/c it's good educational--points out the weakness of LLESD's stance. With current Kindergarten expectations for Grade 1 of our day, all research supports the efficacy of such pre-K programs.


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Posted by Parent of a fall birthday kid
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 24, 2013 at 12:09 am

Las Lomitas is such a rich district that it will be really easy for them to cut services for their regular K-8 students to come up with the funding to pay for a year of free preschool for the the oldest 1/4th of their students. They can just talk the Las Lomitas teachers into taking a pay cut, or they can just raise K-8 class sizes on all the regular K-8 students. Or they can just ask their voters to fund a new parcel tax to pay for this.


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Posted by Parent in LLESD
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 24, 2013 at 12:36 am

The vast majority of school districts in California are revenue limited districts which means they get money from the state for each child enrolled in the schools in their district (up to the state guarantee of around $6,500 per student as measured in the ADA, Average Daily Attendance). The new Kindergarten age limits meant a reduction in the students attending revenue limited school districts and thus a reduction in the money they received from the state. The intent of the last minute addition of "transitional kindergarten" was to restore those moneys to the revenue limited districts. Hence, it defined "transitional kindergarten" as the kids who previously qualified for kindergarten with 5 year birthdays between Sept 2nd and Dec 2nd. This restored the money that they would otherwise loose from the State. The intent was not to provide pre-kindergarten education for all kids prior to their first year in Kindergarten which would be the fair and equitable thing to do but to NOT reduce funding to the majority of school districts that rely on State funding resulting from the change in the age eligibility for kindergarten.

The legislature set an appropriate age requirement for Kindergarteners (which is common in most states), that they be 5 years old when attending kindergarten and then realized that an unintended consequence would be to reduce funding to most of the school districts in the state. To correct this unintended consequence, it added a condition that if the school admitted those "three month" 5's (sep - Nov birthdays) they would receive the money for their education and not have their revenue reduced. Since Las Lomitas is not a revenue limited school district it does not have to have a program for the Sep - Nov 5's as it does not receive any state money to meet the $6,500 guarantee revenue per ADA.

If you believe that pre-kindergarten public education is vital, then it should be for ALL children in the year prior to Kindergarten not just those born in the last three months of the year prior to Kindergarten eligibility. Since the State does not provide LLESD with any revenue limited funds for this education, a way would need to be found to finance this additional year of free public pre-kindergarten education.


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Posted by Onlooker
a resident of Woodside School
on Oct 24, 2013 at 9:01 am

Interesting that Woodside, which is also a basic aid district like Las Lomitas, and not receiving any additional funding, is providing the TK year for ALL students who need it, even though they received the same advice from their attorney. Their superintendent says it should actually save the district money in the long run by providing these kids with services they need while they're young instead of for longer periods later, and should drastically reduce the need for retention, which can be very traumatic for a child.


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Posted by Parent in LLESD
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 24, 2013 at 10:59 am

Not all Basic Aid districts have the same revenue/student situation. Woodside has about 1/3 the students that Las Lomitas has and about 1/2 the revenue.


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Posted by RE Live And Learn
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 24, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Re Live and Learn, I agree that race and economics and education are very tough and sometimes tragic issues but you are awfully quick to call someone a racist or a bigot because they make economic choices to be in a certain school district. Check with any realtor. Most of the market does that, even excluding those who can and do pay for private school. It is not about who you do not want to live next to, it is about the school you want your kids to attend. That said, your kids may well do "better" than all kinds of kids who hang out at expensive country clubs and think money is the answer. Of course. Money is not the answer. Family, learning, values, studying, working hard, being a kind person.. these are the answer, and these things can be taught and leaned, or not, in many environments.


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Posted by New reality
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 24, 2013 at 2:33 pm

I believe that California was one of only five states with a kinder cut-off birthdate in December rather than September. How many of those other 45 states do you think offer a transitional kindergarten? I am thinking it's few to none. Parents just have to get used to the "new" idea that a child is not eligible for kindergarten until they are five (and yes, I have a child who is effected by this change). With more stringent requirements for kindergarteners now, I would think that academically this would be in the best interest of those youngest students. School now begins when you turn 5 by September 1st. All the arguments that have been presented with regard to the change in the law indicated this was better academically for kids, which I thought was the point of public school. Rather than be pleased by this change, there seems to be a lot of grumbling over the perceived loss of free babysitting for a year.

Nowhere is it mentioned how Palo Alto has been effected by the change in kinder eligibility...because they already have a young fives program in place to help the youngest kindergarteners. I wonder how that program compares to TK?


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Posted by oldmom
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 25, 2013 at 9:49 am

"Why would any parent not want to give their child the gift of another year of childhood, if they could?" What could a child and parent do with this year to help the child prepare for life better, not just prepare them to sit still in an large kindergarten class with a 16-month age span and even wider span in levels of "kindergarten readiness"?
I know there are many reasons to put a child into school early. I just wanted to add the above 2 questions into the discussion just as my doctor did with me when I asked her about weather I should enroll my son into the early 5's program in MPCSD 13 years ago.


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Posted by Another LLESD Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Oct 25, 2013 at 4:24 pm

to LLESD parent
and others stating as fact that basic aid districts are exempt from providing TK because they aren't receiving funds for it.

The California Department of Education's lawyers and the legislators who wrote the law disagree with this reading of the law.

They say all districts are required to provided TK if they provide kindergarten.


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Posted by Another LLESD Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Oct 25, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Excuse the typo. Should be:

They say all districts are required to provide TK if they provide kindergarten.


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Posted by Test Score Watcher
a resident of Menlo-Atherton High School
on Oct 30, 2013 at 9:22 pm

What if, instead of "essentially just a year of free daycare" as commentor Common Sense asserts, transitional kindergarten is a social, emotional, and academic foundation laid by a certified teacher trained in the new Common Core standards and collaborating with colleagues teaching in the grades being tested, and if almost all other districts offer TK but not LLESD, then wouldn't LLESD likely experience a test score disadvantage in a few years?


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