In compliance with a new state law, Santa Barbara Unified School District has already begun expanding its transitional kindergarten program.
But officials are sounding the alarm about the hefty price tag the district might be left with, sans any intervention in Sacramento.
Although California has set aside funding for the expansion of transitional kindergarten programs, SBUSD would not qualify because it’s a community-funded school district, officials said during Tuesday evening’s board meeting. The district is considered a “basic aid” district as it receives funding from community property taxes.
Expanding transitional kindergarten — which officials expressed support for — would require additional full-time teachers, more paraeducators and facility changes to ensure the classrooms are up to standard. This means by the time transitional kindergarten is fully phased in for the 2025-2026 school year, SBUSD will be on the hook for a recurring annual cost of about $1.27 million.
So officials have turned to advocacy ahead of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s planned budget revisions next month.
In an email to community members Wednesday, SBUSD warned if the governor did not change the funding mechanism for expansion, “existing educational programs and the students that they serve could be impacted.”
The district included in its email a step-by-step guide on how to contact the Governor’s Office and request a change in how transitional kindergarten is funded.
According to a recent CalMatters analysis, about 15% of districts in California are basic aid districts.
Board Member Kate Ford expressed optimism during Tuesday’s meeting that advocacy would work and maintained her excitement for the transitional kindergarten expansion.
“I think it will change the face of education in California for lots of reasons,” Ms. Ford said.
The expansion of transitional kindergarten in SBUSD is a phased-in, five-year approach:
— Those who turned 5 before Dec. 2 could enroll in the current academic year.
— Those who turn 5 before Feb. 2 will be included in the 2022-2023 school year.
— Those who turn 5 before April 2 will be included in the 2023-2024 school year.
— Those who turn 5 before June 2 will be included in the 2024-2025 school year.
— Those who turn 4 by Sept. 1 will be included in the 2025-2026 school year.
Aside from additional educators, facility costs are expected to ensure transitional kindergarten classrooms are the right size, have appropriate bathrooms and play spaces and are located near parent drop-off and parking.
Transitional classrooms need to be 1,350 square feet; whereas traditional classrooms are about 900 square feet, officials said.
Transitional kindergarten is the first year of a two-year kindergarten program, according to a description at sbunified.org.
Additionally, during Tuesday’s board meeting, Superintendent Hilda Maldonado said five racial incidents had been identified across five schools between April 8-22. Most of those incidents were name-calling or using the n-word, she said.
Dr. Maldonado said a recent meeting of an anti-blackness working group — made up of parents, district employees, community members and some board members — discussed potentially hiring a consultant who could conduct a racial climate assessment of the schools and district. The group is considering what qualifications would be needed from a consultant.
“Anti-blackness” is a term that is used to describe actions, words or behaviors that dehumanize or marginalize black people.