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Governor's budget cuts funding for TK classrooms, most vulnerable children

When Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the rollout of universal transitional kindergarten in 2021, state funding was available for districts to expand the program.

His revised budget proposal now cuts $550 million meant to help school districts upgrade their facilities for transitional kindergarten classrooms.

But the districts that got a head-start on the program, such as San Diego Unified, won't be as affected.


"This year we have provided free, full-day transitional kindergarten for 4-year-olds at nearly all of our elementary schools all across the district. ... No one else is doing that," said Shana Hazan, president of the San Diego Unified School Board. "There's still many, many districts that are only providing TK for a portion of their 4-year-olds."

San Diego Unified expects TK enrollment to triple next year from when it first started in 2021, but Hazan said the cuts meant that they wouldn't be able to open as many new TK classrooms as they'd like.

"Because of the tight budget year and because of the state deficit and the significant deficit we're facing in San Diego Unified, we aren't going to be able to open up as many new TK classrooms as we were hoping next year," she said. "But we will still be providing free full day TK at all of our schools (by 2025-2026)."

Hazan said San Diego Unified would use its general fund to support the facilities younger students need such as bathrooms inside their classrooms.

But not all school districts are able to do that.


"Those grant funds typically go to districts with a higher proportion of low income students, a higher proportion of students receiving free and reduced priced meals. So we don't typically have access to those funds. But, for the districts who don't have bond funds and don't have dollars available to build out those classrooms ... this is a hit for them," Hazan said.

The governor’s revision also cuts $34 million from the emergency child care bridge program for foster children.

When an emergency foster placement is made, the new caregiver often needs access to childcare right away.

The bridge program supports and funds childcare for the foster families.

"The projection was gonna be 40% of the foster care bridge program. So almost almost 50% ... it's a huge cut," said Darryl Chairez, with the San Diego YMCA’s Foster Care Bridge Program.

He said the cut could deepen the trauma of foster children already in a vulnerable place.

"Our voucher side will be cut if it goes through, and that means less money to bring more families on. So, if there's less money, families may be unlikely to take these kids on because they know their child care isn't gonna be paid for and it's going to come out of their own pocket, which is kind of tough," he said. "Especially in how child care is kind of a little bit expensive nowadays."

When announcing his revised budget, Newsom said the $500 million facilities cut was a one-time cut, and he would protect ongoing TK funding.

“I just don’t want to see education cuts,” he said. “Right now, I want to see us preserve the progress we have made on community schools, on preschool, on after-school-for-all, summer school — all the work we’ve been doing.”

Details on the finalized budget are expected in late June.

The child care industry has long been in crisis, and COVID-19 only made things worse. Now affordable, quality care is even more challenging to find, and staff are not paid enough to stay in the field. This series spotlights people each struggling with their own childcare issues, and the providers struggling to get by.