The Santa Barbara Unified School Board voted 5-0 to approve the transitional kindergarten program for its elementary schools on Tuesday, June 14. The program will be open to any 4-year-old who turns 5 by February 2, 2023, beginning this fall.
In July 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom mandated that transitional kindergarten be integrated into all elementary schools by the 2024-25 school year, though the majority of Santa Barbara elementary schools have some version of this program already. District officials had previously told the Independent the program would be phased in over the next few years and was expected to be fully integrated by the 2025-26 school year.
As part of the mandate, transitional kindergarten classes would be required to adjust the adult to student ratio, from 1 adult to every 24 students, to 1 adult to every 12 students. This had been a cause for some concern, as the district struggled to hire more educators without additional funding from the state. Due to Santa Barbara being a community-funded district, funded more by property taxes than state allocations, Santa Barbara received significantly less funds than other districts in California.
“Thank you for your efforts, and for starting early,” said boardmember Virginia Alvarez. Alvarez had been one of many district officials who traveled to Sacramento earlier this year to work with State Senator Monique Limón in lobbying for additional funding to support the program. “Literacy is the foundation of everything.”
At the district board meeting on Tuesday, the district reported that class sizes are expected to be between 20 and 24 students. Veronica Binkley, principal of Harding University Partnership School, said the district currently has enough staff to meet the ratio of adults to students, but as more students enroll, more paraeducators will have to be hired. “We have been running eight [transitional kindergarten] programs and we’re adding one more, so I think we’ll be fine,” she said.