Students wanted: Schools scramble to add more 4-year-olds (2024)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, July 19.

Los Angeles Unified and other school districts across the state are on a recruitment spree, pulling out all the stops to enroll the state’s 4-year-olds in transitional kindergarten programs.

Districts are trying to reach parents in the forms of school banners, bus bench ads and billboards, plus text and robo-call campaigns.

That may seem like a lot of effort, but California’s $2.7-billion plan for universal transitional kindergarten, known as TK, aims to have nearly 400,000 4-year-olds enrolled by 2025. The 2022-2023 school year marked the first year of the plan in action, but reality fell short of expectations. Estimates from the Legislative Analyst’s Office put average daily attendance for the school year at roughly 91,000, well short of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s estimates.


The expansion might be off to a slow start, but offering free child care and education across the state is a game-changer — though not necessarily a win for everyone.

“The opening of this new grade level has spurred seismic shifts in the state’s complex childcare landscape,” wrote Jenny Gold, who covers early childhood development and education for The Times. “Leading up to fall school reopenings, intense competition for the state’s youngest students has erupted between public school districts and the day-care industry.”

The TK recruitment scramble also coincides with a decline in California’s population of 4-year-olds. The number of 4-year-olds in the state is projected to fall to about 448,000 by next year, according to California’s Department of Finance — a reduction of nearly 13% from 2015.

Public school districts see adding more transitional kindergarten students as a potential lifeline after years of declining enrollment. As Jenny explained:

Educators are hoping children who sign up for public TK will stay for the duration of elementary school, instead of leaving for charter or private schools, and help stabilize funding.

But while the opportunity to boost enrollment would benefit public schools, it presents a dilemma for parents, who can feel overwhelmed with new options and unsure which preschool path will be best for their child.


“It’s ironic, because not long ago the problem is that we didn’t have enough,” Pedro Noguera, dean of the USC Rossier School of Education, told Jenny. “We’ve begun to make it more widely available, which is a good thing, but we need to make sure it’s done efficiently.”

Research shows that kids in early educational programs tend to do better as they start kindergarten, and those benefits carry on into later grades.

The state program is also viewed as an “existential threat” to day-care operators, Jenny explained, who often rely on the tuition from enrolled 4-year-olds to help cover the higher costs of caring for babies and toddlers.

As private preschool operator Victoria Marguleta told her: “We can’t compete with free, no matter how high our quality is.”

You can read Jenny’s latest reporting here.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.


When a burglar broke into Damien Smith’s home in 2021, he did what most people would do: he called 911. But when police arrived, Smith — an actor who was making a documentary about police brutality — says officers tased and detained him instead of the perpetrator. He’s now suing the LAPD. Los Angeles Times

Students wanted: Schools scramble to add more 4-year-olds (1)

A crane collapsed during the removal of a billboard in San Pedro, injuring two workers on July 18, 2023.

(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

For years, San Pedro residents and city officials had complained about an “ungodly” and “monstrous” billboard that stood at the entrance of the L.A. neighborhood. This week, work began to dismantle the sign structure, but the joyful atmosphere was interrupted when a crane broke, injuring two workers. Los Angeles Times


The IRS is sending some California taxpayers — or eventual taxpayers — “notice and demand” letters, creating confusion after announcing most residents had more time to file. The letters do state that those in counties covered by winter disaster declarations have an extension — most until Oct. 16 — though that isn’t noted until the very end of the agency’s four-page letter. In ye olde news business, we call that burying the lede. Los Angeles Times

Here’s a California conundrum: Californians are smoking less, which is good for public health. But because the state’s tax on nicotine products helps fund early childhood services, there’s less money to sustain some vital programs. CalMatters


Single unhoused women in L.A. County face high levels of violence, according to a new study. The report from nonprofits Urban Institute and Hub for Urban Initiatives found large shares of women reported being the victims of theft, threats, assaults and sexual violence. Almost half of the women surveyed pointed to domestic violence as the direct cause of their homelessness. Los Angeles Times

The Biden administration has settled four lawsuits that all relate to accusations that the federal government under former President Trump illegally diverted taxpayer funds to construct the U.S.-Mexico border wall. As part of one settlement, the state of California was awarded $25 million to fund environmental conservation efforts in San Diego County. San Diego Union-Tribune

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Beginning in August, In-N-Out will prohibit its workers from wearing masks in five of the seven states the burger chain operates, unless they have a medical note. The mask ban won’t apply to locations in California and Oregon. Los Angeles Times

Did you know “Taco Tuesday” had been trademarked since 1989? No longer, following a legal settlement between Taco Bell and Taco John’s to allow free use of those two lovely words that many Californians know and love. 🌮 Los Angeles Times


Students wanted: Schools scramble to add more 4-year-olds (2)

Emcee Miss Shu Mai, center, dances with attendees at QT Nightlife’s K-Pop Night at Micky’s West Hollywood.

(Michael Owen Baker / For The Times)

“Even in historically gay neighborhoods like West Hollywood or San Francisco’s Castro district, Asian Americans have long been ignored or fetishized, seen as feminine and weak,” Times reporter Jeong Park wrote this week. But Queer Asian Americans are finding joy and belonging at a West Hollywood nightclub that hosts a weekly K-Pop Night. Los Angeles Times

Be honest: you’ve indulged in the fantasy of what you’d do if you won the lottery. With Wednesday’s Powerball jackpot expected to hit $1 billion, you can dream big. But one thing might be missing from your imagined riches: how much of that paydirt gets shoveled over for taxes. Here’s what hopeful winners can expect. The Sacramento Bee

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Today’s California landmark is from Helen Lynn of Palm Springs: the theatrical views of Mount Tamalpais State Park from the Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre.

Students wanted: Schools scramble to add more 4-year-olds (3)

Helen’s son takes in the view from the Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre at Mount Tamalpais State Park in Marin County.

(Helen Lynn)

What are California’s essential landmarks? Fill out this form to send us your photos of a special spot in California — natural or human-made. Tell us why it’s interesting and what makes it a symbol of life in the Golden State. Please be sure to include only photos taken directly by you. Your submission could be featured in a future edition of the newsletter.

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to

Students wanted: Schools scramble to add more 4-year-olds (2024)


How do you challenge children in school? ›

Challenging high ability pupils to write down two good things about their peer's work and one thing they think they could improve or do differently helps them to develop essential evaluation skills. After they write these ideas down, they can share them with their partner and have a discussion about the work.

How do I make a formal complaint about a school? ›

Make a formal complaint

You'll usually need to email or write a letter to the headteacher and to the governing body telling them you're making a formal complaint. You'll need to explain the problem and why you're unhappy with what the school has done about it. You should keep a copy of everything you send.

How can I increase the number of students in my school? ›

7 Ways to Increase the Number of Students at Your Private School
  1. Create a Strong Online Presence. ...
  2. Offer a Unique Curriculum. ...
  3. Collaborate With Local Organizations. ...
  4. Host Events and Open Houses. ...
  5. Focus on the Student Experience. ...
  6. Utilize Word-of-mouth Marketing. ...
  7. Consider Targeted Advertising:
15 Feb 2023

How do you challenge more able children? ›

Working with others: think about tasks for pairs and groups. Look ahead for opportunities where challenge can develop, perhaps in the form of longer tasks. Beyond the classroom: look for external opportunities including clubs, particularly for highly able musicians, athletes and performers.

How do I make a safeguarding complaint about a school? ›

Make a report of what you've seen and any evidence that would support your claim, including time and date. Do this in line with your educational organisation's child protection policy. Report what you have seen to a superior or a designated safeguarding lead (DSL) who will then take the issue further if they see fit.

Can you take legal action against a school? ›

Essentially, it's possible to sue a school for any type of injury caused by negligence. Some of the more common personal injuries we see include: Concussions and other head injuries. Fractured or broken bones.

What is teacher misconduct? ›

Examples of serious misconduct include allegations of inappropriate relationships with pupils, exam misconduct, financial misconduct, dishonesty, bullying, alcohol and drug offences, and any other serious criminal behaviour.

How do you deal with a large number of students in the classroom? ›

5 Strategies for Successful Handling Large Classes
  1. Plan smart. Because of the larger number of students, teachers often experience a decrease in planning time. ...
  2. Use movement activities. ...
  3. Create an atmosphere of meeting discovery. ...
  4. Use small groups. ...
  5. Give praise. ...
  6. Inspire students to be leaders.
  7. Don't forget about continuity.
1 Jul 2022

How can you increase student learning? ›

Use different activities in class – videos, discussions, lecture, groups, guest speakers, pairwork. Use different assignment methods – written, oral, projects, etc. – so as to engage as many ways of learning as possible (e.g., visual, auditory). Give students a real-world problem to solve that has multiple solutions.

How do you encourage students? ›

One way to encourage students and teach them responsibility is to get them involved in the classroom. Make participating fun by giving each student a job to do. Give students the responsibility of tidying up or decorating the classroom. Assign a student to erase the blackboard or pass out materials.

What not to say to students? ›

5 Things Teachers Should Never Say
  • “I Don't Care If My Students Like Me.”
  • “You Will Never Be Able to Do That.”
  • “You Are Just Lazy.”
  • “That's a Stupid Question!”
  • “I've Already Gone Over That. You Should Have Been Listening.”
  • Be in a Compromising Situation With a Student.
  • Talk About Another Teacher.
  • Put a Student Down.
17 Jun 2019

Can a school refuse a child? ›

In-year applications

Not all in-year admissions are co-ordinated by the local authority, so you may need to apply directly to the school. Contact the admissions section in your local authority for more details. As a general rule, if a school has a place available they cannot refuse to admit your child.

Can a child be signed off school with anxiety? ›

Provide evidence so that your child's absence is authorised.

For example, say 'my child cannot come to school because they are too anxious', rather than saying they are unwell or don't want to. Get a note from the GP, CAMHS or another mental health professional as early as you can.

How do we challenge students? ›

10 Ways to Challenge Gifted Students in the Classroom
  • Spark Interests. This might be one of the most important. ...
  • Group Gifted Students Together. Small groups emphasize collaborative learning. ...
  • Know Areas of Strength. ...
  • Assessments. ...
  • Connect to the Real-World. ...
  • Set Goals. ...
  • Levels of Difficulty in Lesson Plans. ...
  • Use Technology.
13 Mar 2019

How do you challenge children? ›

Supporting children's learning through questioning to challenge their thinking. Open questions are invitations to think and explore ideas and issues through, for example, reasoning, imagining, inventing, hypothesising, predicting, comparing and evaluating.

How do you provide challenges in the classroom? ›

In order for this to happen, set up a series of structured questions that require students to think hard and ensure students have enough time to grapple with the difficult concepts. Also make time for students to construct their own questions and pose them to their peers.


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