Posted BY: | NwoReport

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — The Los Angeles Unified School District has been testing out its free pre-kindergarten program and now, every 4-year-old in the district will have access to it, two years ahead of the state’s mandated deadline.

LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond held a press conference this week to discuss its efforts to expand Universal Transitional Kindergarten, also known as UTK.

The district has been offering UTK at several hundred schools this year.

“The August start to the school year, it’s not going to be an issue in physical facilities, classrooms, or instructional material,” said Carvalho. “It’s going to be hiring the teachers and that could conceivably be the biggest challenge.”

The district is moving ahead of the UTK schedule, despite narrowly avoiding costly long-term strikes by teachers and other district union employees.

“We have, for the first time again in over a decade, a strategic plan,” said Carvalho. “We are following that plan. We are living up to the promise of elevating LAUSD to the top premiere spot in urban education in America.”

UTK will be paid for through state funding based on the average daily attendance of students.

Edith Urzua, the principal at Van Deene Avenue Elementary School in Torrance, said her school implemented UTK this school year, and has proven to be effective.

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She said she’s thrilled that it’s being expanded.

“It helps them develop social skills. It gives them early literacy skills, math skills, and so when they come into kinder, all of the things that they normally learn at the beginning of the kinder, they already have under their belt,” she said.

Parent Monica Caicedo said her two children have greatly benefited from preschool. She believes the implementation of UTK throughout the district is long overdue.

“The UTK program is really excellent. They learn so much, they thrive,” she said.

For more information on UTK – including a list of frequently asked questions – visit the California Department of Education’s website.