MERCED, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – The University of California in Merced (UC Merced) is working to boost the number of early childhood education teachers for the Central Valley and across California.

UC Merced officials say they are leading this effort to attract and prepare more transitional kindergarten (TK) teachers to help the youngest students be ready for the K-12 education system.

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing has awarded $1.5 million to UC Merced and UC Berkley to implement the University of California Transitional Kindergarten (UCTK) Residency Program.

UCTK will be developed over the next year and housed at the UC Merced Extension Teacher Preparation Program.

Additionally, the UC Office of the President will add $300.000 to the initiative to support fellowships for graduate-level teacher trainees, including those whose status is described as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Transitional Kindergarten is often described as a stepping stone between preschool and kindergarten.

State lawmakers and Governor Gavin Newsom aim to extend universal pre-kindergarten to all 4-year-olds by 2026. But the shortage o new teachers has slowed the implementation of the program.

For more information visit news.ucmerced.edu.