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Paulette Chaffee Comments on the Challenge of Staffing as California is Expanding Transitional Kindergarten

Paulette Chaffee says CA school districts are experiencing challenges implementing the state's expanded TK program due to ongoing teacher shortages.

FULLERTON, CA, USA, December 22, 2022 / -- Parents and educators throughout California celebrated the state's move to expand the transitional kindergarten program to include all children who are four years old. But, with only 13 months' notice given to them, many school districts throughout the state are scrambling to handle major staffing issues, as lifelong educator Paulette Chaffee explains.

The $2.7 billion program, announced by Governor Gavin Newsom in May 2021, was welcome news to many in the education field, but it wasn't without its challenges. School districts were forced to implement an entirely new grade to their structure, requiring them to find the classroom space to house these students and hire aides and teachers to lead them.

This all comes at a time when Paulette Chaffee says there has been a dramatic shortage of teachers throughout California -- fueled in no small part by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of staffers will eventually be needed to serve the additional children as part of the program, which began rollout this year and will slowly roll out over the next four years.

Some school districts fulfilled the need this year by moving around teachers serving in other areas such as substitutes, heading programs focused on reading, or even teaching another grade. But those are all only temporary fixes, and a permanent solution will need to be figured out to handle all the students throughout the program's expansion.

Paulette Chaffee, a lifelong educator, knows how important it is to provide a quality education that is both equitable and inclusive for all children. To do this, proper staffing is required to meet all the needs of the diverse population of 4-year-olds in California.

A significant roadblock to filling the new teacher and aide positions is that just about every school district in the state is experiencing a shortage of staffers. Unfortunately, this means they're all competing among themselves for the same teachers. In other words, there's a finite pool of candidates the school districts can choose from, which doesn't guarantee they'll be able to fully meet the need.

One saving grace is that the expansion of the transitional kindergarten program will happen slowly over the next few years. That gives school districts some time to figure out a way ahead.

In the meantime, the California Department of Education is working directly with districts throughout the state to strategize and provide them with plan templates for expanding their TK classes.

The DOE has provided a communications toolkit to help districts communicate with parents and community members. It has also created design teams and workgroups to help districts execute the expansion and has set up webinars and office hours during which school districts can share their concerns and ask questions.

There are also grants available that could help districts plan for and implement the TK program, including funding for new construction and/or renovation of current facilities and teacher training.

All of this is great, Paulette Chaffee says, but California school districts are still likely to face challenges expanding the TK program due to the ongoing teacher shortage in the state.

Jessica Brown
Mercury News Media
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