"Children Learning, Parents Earning, Communities Growing"
September 12, 2022 | Issue #36
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Worthy of Being Highlighted

Sara LaPietra and her husband Vince thought they’d won the childcare equivalent of the lottery. Their four-year-old son Teddy got a spot in their local school’s transitional kindergarten, or TK, class.

That meant they could stop paying $2,000 a month for his preschool, and the speech and occupational therapy Teddy receives would be on site at McKinley Elementary near Balboa Park.

Right now, the LaPietras must take time from their work day to pick up Teddy at preschool, drive him to therapy classes and then back to the preschool.

Unfortunately, the lottery ticket turned out to be a dud. While Teddy had a spot in TK, he didn’t get a spot in after-school care. That meant the LaPietras would have to pick him up from TK at 2 p.m. every day, and noon on Wednesdays — impossible given their work schedules.

“I've signed up for every possible after- school care program with the school district and we’re number 45 on the waiting list for most of those,” Sara LaPietra said. “I just feel like we've been tearing our hair out for three months trying to figure out what to do.”

She’s tried everything — signing up for private programs that pick up kids after school, local daycares to see if they’d pick up Teddy after school, churches, nannies — no luck.

Many parents here and throughout California will find themselves in the same boat as the LaPietra family in the coming years.

Starting this school year, California launched a $2.7-billion program to expand the number of kids eligible for TK, with the goal of providing TK to all 4-year-olds by 2025.

If it’s fully implemented, the plan would make California a nationwide leader in providing early childhood education. But it’s missing a crucial piece — after-school care.

After school programs are often run by outside organizations with their own staff, not public schools. Depending on the district and school, these programs may be licensed child care programs that parents pay for, or state funded enrichment and care programs. Either way, there are not enough slots to serve all students.

The San Diego Unified School District has more than doubled the number of TK classes this year to more than 185 classes across 118 schools. And the waitlists at aftercares have shot up, too. Across all the programs run by SAY San Diego, there are 2,085 kids on waitlists, almost twice as many as last year.
Staffing shortages and licensing delays mean SAY San Diego is limited in how many students it can serve, said CEO Nancy Gannon Hornberger.

“When you look at the first six years of life and rapid brain development and all of the social and cognitive growth for kids, it's a wonderful opportunity,” Gannon Hornberger said. “We also know that working parents were really looking forward to being able to enroll their children in a 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. day”
Not all working parents need 12 hours of care, but many need care beyond the school day.

“It's frustrating, I know, for parents who were counting on that longer day of care,” Gannon Hornberger said. “And we're here to help them navigate to preschool or some other form of care for their TKers.”

by Denyne Colburn, CEO of CAPPA. California's transitional kindergarten is an experiment happening now where the test subjects are 3 & 4-year olds. The reason why Governor Newsom is allowing for this experiment to continue even when parents are pleading to correct this wrong is money. The raiding of child care monies ripped away from from private child care businesses, the total disregard of the needs for working families to have a choice of where their children are cared and taught as well as the needs of working families to have stable care in hours that meet their working needs have been cast aside. If you are reading this, you should be concerned that an experiment failing so badly will continue to have billions of dollars thrown at it because there is simply a lack of leadership to step up, take responsibility for acting to hastily and reopen a real conversation that places the needs of children above politics.