California’s K–12 Enrollment Is Down, but Transitional Kindergarten Is Growing Like a Weed

California’s K–12 Enrollment Is Down, but Transitional Kindergarten Is Growing Like a Weed

Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond reads from the book "Red: A Crayon's Story" to second-grade students at Nystrom Elementary School in Richmond, Calif., on May 17, 2022. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Micaela Ricaforte
Micaela Ricaforte


Updated: 6/11/2024


Amid a K–12 public school enrollment drop, California’s transitional kindergarten population is doubling in size, but several local districts are struggling to find enough transitional kindergarten teachers to maintain a proper student-teacher ratio.
Recently released data by the state Education Department show that total K–12 enrollment in California public schools for 2023–24 was 5,837,690 students–a decrease of 0.25 percent or 15,000 students from the previous year.
However, the department points out in a May 16 statement that the number of children enrolled in transitional kindergarten—which serves as a bridge between preschool and kindergarten for some children—rose from 75,465 during the 2021–22 school year to 151,491 in 2023–24.
The department credits the growth to “significant investment in early learning, including $500 million in universal kindergarten planning and implementation grants as well as a statewide campaign to raise awareness about the programs and state-level support of transitional kindergarten expansion across the state.”
“I am very grateful to see this exciting outlook for our earliest learners,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said in a May 16 statement. “We know how important it is for ... every child to read by third grade, and a critical part of that effort is to make sure that our youngest students are supported to have healthy development in their early years.”
However, amid the boom in transitional kindergarten enrollment, several school districts and charter schools in the state have been fined for violating state guidelines on class size or teacher-student ratios.
The state’s transitional kindergarten guidelines require classes to maintain an average student enrollment of 24 with an adult-to-student ratio of 1 to 12.
A state district audit of schools for the 2023–24 school year, reported on by EdSource, revealed there were 10 school districts and 22 charter schools that were not compliant with the required average class size, resulting in fines ranging from $1,706 to more than $6.9 million.
Also, seven school districts and 16 charter schools failed to meet the teacher-student ratio, meaning they must pay fines from $2,813 to over $1.1 million.
Three school districts and 12 charter schools were found in violation of both class size and ratio requirements.

Micaela Ricaforte covers education in Southern California for The Epoch Times. In addition to writing, she is passionate about music, books, and coffee.

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