By Deborah Stipek
Special to the Mercury News
Education cuts at any level are foolish in a state in which schools are already starving. While we need to balance California's budget, we also need to avoid cuts that will severely cost the state in the long run. Cutting funding for transitional kindergarten, as the governor proposes, may do just that.
In California, children are now required to enter kindergarten if they turn 5 years old by Sept. 1 rather than the previous date of Dec. 1. California legislators also created a year of transitional kindergarten for children who turn 5 between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2 to address these children's needs. But the governor's budget request eliminates funding for transitional kindergarten, turning a positive legislative decision into one that will harm the academic performance of California's children.
Without transitional kindergarten, children will be delayed access to formal education by three months, and 125,000 will lose a whole year. For a 5-year-old, this is a crucial time for laying the foundation for future learning. Research has shown that experience during the first five years of life have long-term effects on children's brains in ways that affect their learning long into their future. And when children enter school, their skills profoundly affect their ability to take advantage of the curriculum.
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