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Board of Ed votes to maintain childcare programs – temporarily

Submitted by on 1, August 25, 2010 – 5:00 amOne Comment

Alameda’s Board of Education voted Tuesday night to maintain largely state-funded toddler and school-age care programs for another 45 days. The programs had been slated to close on Friday.

Trustee Tracy Jensen warned parents who attended Tuesday’s meeting that the programs – toddler care at Woodstock Child Development Center and before- and after-school care for students at Ruby Bridges and Henry Haight elementary schools – are still up in the air, though, since a state budget isn’t expected before their new, October 8 closure date.

District staff had advocated for closure of the programs, because Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed eliminating state funding for them in his draft budget for the coming year, and they fear the money will never come. And they argued that the board should focus on providing core services if the money for other services isn’t available.

“This is a tough time for Alameda. But it foretells many more difficult decisions,” said Assistant Superintendent Sean McPhetridge, alluding to the planning process for future school closures that was to take place later Tuesday night.

But Jensen and Trustee Niel Tam pointed out that state legislators are seeking to save funding for the programs. And Tam questioned whether families who didn’t have the programs would move out of Alameda, which would deprive the district of the funding the state provides individually for their education.

And Board Vice President Mike McMahon, the only board member to vote against the extension, said Schwarzenegger could opt to fund the care programs at the expense of K-12 education.

“It’s a zero-sum game at this point,” McMahon said.

The district has paid around $125,000 to keep the programs open this summer, and Chief Business Officer Robert Shemwell said that keeping them open through October 8 will cost the district an additional $94,000.

All of the 24 toddlers in the center’s toddler program and the majority of the students in the school-age care programs had received state subsidies to pay for their care, which were paid for through state programs that subsidize child care for low-income families.

Parents had advocated for maintenance of the services, saying they couldn’t find comparable care. But district staff argued that keeping the programs would mean cutting something else.

A consultant working with the Alameda County Office of Education said Alameda’s is the only district-run toddler program left in Alameda County. She said she’s confident the funding for the district’s care programs will come through.

“Once you let this go, you won’t get it back,” she said.

The school board also voted to rescind their June 22 layoff of staffers for the programs – and to reinstate them in 45 days.

An update on the status of the programs – and funding for them – is scheduled for the September 24 board meeting, and Superintendent Kirsten Vital said the board should be ready to find money for the program from another program on that date – or shut the care programs down.

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