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Letter: West Menlo child care racks up huge subsidy

Original post made on Dec 30, 2008

I write regarding your Dec. 17 editorial "Raising fees raises questions in Menlo." Some of the conclusions and characterizations in your editorial make me wonder if we both attended the same meeting.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, December 31, 2008, 12:00 AM

Comments (26)

Posted by Hank Lawrence, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 30, 2008 at 2:24 pm

The MPCC should be immediately privatized. Unless there are significant matching Federal and/or State funds Menlo Park has no business to be in the Child Care business. It should solicit competitive bids to take over the MPCC immediately and award to the bets bidder on balnced considerations of cost and management. If there are no bidders than it should be shut down at the end of June 2009. This should give parents enough time to make other arrangements Menlo Park should not be a Nanny and I resent living in a $1.25M townhome subsidizing peple living in homes costing at least twice as much. We need to stop this welfare for the rich.


Posted by Diana, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 30, 2008 at 3:07 pm

Hank, Do you also resent subsidizing developers who have been paying only about half the costs of city services provided to support their uber-profitable projects?

I know a few of the families who are fortunate enough to have spots in the child care program, and I can assure you, they're not even close to rich. (There probably are a few "rich" people, too, but not the ones I know.) If you take issue with the city providing child care, that's fine, but you should argue your case more honestly. Our government does support welfare for the rich in a number of ways, but this is not one of them.


Posted by callie, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 30, 2008 at 3:29 pm

I wonder why the Almanac failed to cover the $358,000 subsidy that the Menlo Park Child Care Center recieves, or the Center's lack of accreditation, or the fact that it has had 3 directors in one year, or the fact that the children could get a better program that costs them less. The MCC was indeed the main topic of discussion, and the Almanac shied away. What is the Almanac's agenda?


Posted by just over it, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 30, 2008 at 9:13 pm

This topic is such old news. The bottom line is that the Union effectively strong arms any interested applicants (private childcare providers) and the City.

Several years ago when the City "explored" going private the Union played their very organized hand and won at everyones expense.

I believe there are some quality care givers employed by the City run program but there are quality private options that perhaps cost less and even come w/ the credentials that many concerned parents are looking for.

My daughter was enrolled for several months and I was very disappointed at the level of proffesionalism. On two separate occasions the "teachers" didn't know her whereabouts. Only one teacher even knew my name. I didn't sign the transportation waiver and waited to see how long it would take the administration to ask me to complete my paperwork. They never did. I had to tell them. I never once signed my child out. They never asked or seemed to even notice. The teachers, mostly teenagers, were dressed their age which is fine amongst their peers but I'm not really interested in my six year old staring at her female teachers' belly button all day. Sexy was not the roll model I was hoping for in afterschool kindercare.

Now I know there are several other families who will attest to the quality care they have received for all of their children which I think is great.

However, I am here to say the MP program is not without it's flaws and organizationally it was a mess. Perhaps these issues are just standard in the industry. I'm certainly no expert but I have received superior care prior and since. I would only recommend MP option as a last resort.

Our City needs the support and the guts to stand up to the Union and cancel their contract and then put a new contract out to bid. If the Union's bid is stronger than their private counterparts, great, they get reaffirmed. If they are as good as they claim, they should have no resistance to the challenge.

Either way we can all rest comfortably knowing the process was above board, based on outlined criteria and the chosen applicant was the best available. It's a solution that hurts none. The era of entitlement needs to end.


Posted by Love It!, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 31, 2008 at 12:44 am

FINALLY! There are some posts on this blog that make sense, financial sense and analytical sense! Thank you "Hank", "Callie" and "Just over it", you really deserve some kudos for your posts. No one ever wants to even discuss the unions, or ask questions of the unions, or attempt to hold them accountable. If you are someone that wants to give back to the community, you CANNOT at this time, go against ANYTHING the unions represent or stand for, it is time that this changes, NOW, or we're going to continue to get shoddy service, and pay bloated amounts of money for a cheaper, more economical way of running our government. We should NOT be in the childcare business, period. BUT, if we are, privatize it, and make some money from it! I feel very motivated that there are at least 3 other people in this town that feel the way I feel, thank you!!


Posted by Dana, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 31, 2008 at 10:31 am

The union didn't defeat the MCC privitization efforts, the parents did.

No reputable childcare provider wanted to take over in the face of widespread opposition from parents, so only two extremely sketchy operations even applied. One was a complete joke and the other pulled out after a parent looked at its file of state licensing violations at its other childcare centers.

Bash unions all you want, but get your facts straight.


Posted by why public daycare?, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 31, 2008 at 11:25 pm

as a local contractor, i have had experience with some of the "services" that the city supposedly provides for me at subsidized cost. i have waited six months and gone thru endless reviews to get permission to connect my utilities. i have had planners tell me what materials to use in my projects. if the city spins endless paperwork for itself and makes me jump thru hoops, i sure didn't ask for it. with little help and a lot of obstruction from the city, i build quality homes that draw new owners to pay TEN to TWENTY times the property tax that their neighbors pay. if the city "subsidizes" me, then they get it all back in spades.

also, as a local dad, i can attest to the FINE private options available in the many church affiliated preschools and daycare centers such as Kirkhouse, Littlest Angels, New Beginnings, MA-COOP,
CCLC, etc. indeed i know that they have dedicated, mature long term staff and reasonable fees.


Posted by Too Bad Dana, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jan 1, 2009 at 12:22 pm

Too Bad "Dana" it doesn't look like you have any idea what you are talking about. My facts are very straight, Unions historically ALWAYS cost the citizen more, either in direct financial costs, or lack of creativity, or lack of a good product. Period.


Posted by truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 1, 2009 at 1:23 pm

Dana is right. This city held full open bids for child care and appointed a task force that included current council members. I think something like 25 went out. If you are telling all of us that the unions hunted down all 25 organizations and threatened them and scared them, then I think we all know how much more we should listen to you.

Too Bad, you fail to even address Dana's point because she is right. Some of us do our homework before posting. It is all there to be had.


Posted by Marian Wright Edelman, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 1, 2009 at 6:21 pm

Truth does not have his facts right. ~ 25 RFPs went out but there were only two interested bidders. Of the two only the Childrens' Creative Learning Center had a serious proposal. Their Redwood Shores center was honored as having the best after-school program in the State of California. CCLC was specifically targeted by the SEIU in a disinformation and intimidation campaign that would have made Pravda proud. The CCLC after school program, like almost all other programs, had some minor and easily curable violations. But the proposed center was head and shoulders above the MCC program at a lower a cost. The only way the SEIU can compete is if the City Council votes to put the interests of the SEIU above the interests of its citizens and allows the program to remain in house.


Posted by camille, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jan 1, 2009 at 10:33 pm

The city should never have gotten into the childcare business, but don't blame the unions for the city's string of missteps: the programs weren't even unionized until a few years ago when a totally incompetent community services director created an environment that resulted in unionization.

As one who has served on a couple of city childcare task forces and who has had children in the afterschool programs, I'd say the situation is way too complicated to discuss in just a few paragraphs. But I tend to agree with Dana: the parents in the toddler/preschool program have proven themselves to be an effective lobbying force. They march their kids into council chambers whenever fee increases are being discussed, and the council -- no matter which "side" happens to be in the majority -- caves to their demands. They almost succeeded in strongarming the city into building them the overpriced Taj Mahal childcare center. Remember that?

There are quite a few local childcare centers, ranging from family daycare arrangements to corporate-sponsored programs like GeoKids. Menlo Park's program simply cannot and should not be competing with these programs. For the last 20 years, no one on the council has had the guts to cut the cord.

It's possible to support childcare without running a childcare program. The city should look at the alternatives (the Palo Alto model, for example) and divest itself of this operation, now!


Posted by Reality Check, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 4, 2009 at 11:49 pm

This is the same old BS that was raised two years ago, only the phantom subsidy being cited back then (by Winkler, Duboc and Jellins, of course) was $444,000, not the $359,000 being currently touted.

When the city was finally forced to take a hard look at that $444,000 figure, it turned out to just be $4500. Yes, that's not a typo, just $4500 in reality - here's the link:
Web Link

And Ms. Edelman is flat out wrong on this point: CCLC was NOT a bidder for the program - the two were:
Pacifica-based Building Kidz, which had a disturbing history of state violations
Redwood City-based Learning Adventures, a child care startup company that had no facility (and thus thought, golly gee, that new taxpayer-paid-for facility would sure be a great way to start a new business).

And of course camille brings up the old "Taj Mahal" ruse, conveniently forgeting of course that the reason a new childcare facility was proposed in the first place was that the toddler program was being run out of two dilapidated "modular units" (that is, trailers).

This is all about union-busting with these folks and they could all care less about working families and their kids.


Posted by camille, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jan 5, 2009 at 8:36 am

I didn't mention the subsidy because I agree that the figures are suspect. The city has produced unsubstantiated numbers across the board, not just in childcare, and many don't pass the straight-face test.

That's irrelevant.

It's time to stop stereotyping those of us who criticize the city's wimpy position on childcare. I looked at into the city's childcare for two of my kids and rejected it not because of the facilities -- my school-aged kids have classes in portables, what's the big deal? -- but because I found the program lacking. I have paid for my kids to go to local nursery schools and I have hired nannies to care for my kids. Like most parents in Menlo Park, I have managed just fine without city support or subsidy!

The Taj Mahal would have been a terrible waste of money that was needed to improve community facilities throughout the city. Note that the children are now housed in a lovely facility that cost half as much as the Taj Mahal would have.

Residents with extensive experience in childcare, such as Chuck Bernstein, have offered advice to the city on running a program. Is it about union-busting with Chuck? Does he hate working families and kids? Don't make me laugh. I served on one large task force that surveyed parents and concluded that they preferred school-based care -- the same system that most cities use! -- rather than after-school care at Burgess.

Historically, half the kids at the all-day facility don't even live in Menlo Park. That may explain why the parents want the city to divert all its resources to them. Families that do live in Menlo Park should realize that the preschool years pass quickly, and that soon their children will want to be doing gymnastics, swimming, playing soccer, and partaking of other activities on city property. The city's childcare program consumes an inordinate level of resources given that it serves only a few dozen children, whereas other city programs serve thousands of people.

For this and for many reasons, I reiterate that it's past time for the city to cut the cord.


Posted by Candace, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 5, 2009 at 3:57 pm

I don't think you'd find much disagreement that on-site after-schol care at Menlo Park City schools would be wonderful, but the district has made it abundantly clear that it's never going to happen. Parents are lucky that the city has stepped in to help fill the gap with an afterschool program.

I'm sure it would be easy to find private providers to step in if the schools allowed them space on campus, but district officials say there's no room for anything but classrooms.


Posted by Mater, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jan 5, 2009 at 4:01 pm

Hey Camille,

Where do you get your stats saying that historically, half the kids in the all-day program aren't from Menlo Park?

I assume you mean the preschool program, and I can say from personal experience that a vast majority of the kids in recent years are Menlo Park residents.

Could you please explain?


Posted by camille, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jan 5, 2009 at 5:19 pm

My percentages are a few years old, dating back to my serving on an MP commission that oversaw the city's childcare programs. I have no problem with non-resident children using the facility, as many of their parents work in MP or have other compelling reasons to choose that program. I made the comment about non-residents only because it seems the most obvious explanation for the selfishness I've observed.

I don't know why the MPCSD board and supervisor have erected so many obstacles to onsite care. I don't buy the claims that there isn't any room. Remember, this is the district that managed to find space at Encinal for the TERC! Eventually, I expect they will budge (for years we were told that it was impossible to run an immersion language program too) but it's not going to happen tomorrow. Still, we have to keep chipping away, recognizing that the MPCSD moves at glacial speed.

There have been private providers on campus, Newton and the Y, for example. The schools need to be flexible about accommodating them. Private providers have used the music room, the art room, the multi, and other available spaces for their programs.

Palo Alto and Redwood City have figured it out, and so has Las Lomitas. The MPCSD is way behind the curve here.


Posted by Bruce, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jan 22, 2009 at 12:42 pm

The true issue is why is the city of menlo park in the child care business. If I remember the facts from the "lets ask the citizens" survey, the amount paid for by the parents that use the city service, does not cover the costs. Forget what commision you have been on or whether you've had kids in the program or not, it is the choice of adults to bring children into this world and whether or not they can afford the costs of their choices. My wife and I had 4 children and raised them all here in menlo park. The costs of daycare for our 4 children were astronomical, so we decided to do what was best for our children (being raised by their own mother) and to live with less. Our kids went to school everyday with their brown sack lunch (no school provided free lunch) and without any fellow taxpayer provided afterschool daycare. Its time to stop this ridiculous thinking that our government, city, state, or federal, needs to provide for the short comings of our personal choices.


Posted by Reality Check, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 22, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Sorry, Bruce, but you got your facts wrong:
The tuition charged covers 100% of the direct costs of the program.

What this had always been about are the "indirect costs" - the cost of the overall city bureaucracy that lies about the actual program (paying for the $250k that the city manager gets, for example). And the fact of the matter is, NO MP program sets its fees to cover those indirect costs, so saying that childcare should do so is patently unfair to paying parents.

And if you still think parents are getting some bargain here: the cost being charged is in the range of $1200-$1500 per month per child. Does that sound like a bargain to you?


Posted by Roberta, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jan 22, 2009 at 2:47 pm

As for the kids who aren't Menlo Park residents, their families are charged 135% of the tuition of resident children.

So in the afterschool program, the city would be making a profit on any non-residents (and there aren't any that I know of, because the program is in such high demand and residents get first priority).

In the preschool program, if the city's figures are accurate (big if) then the non-residents are paying the full cost, and not getting any sort of free ride.


Posted by camille, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jan 22, 2009 at 2:48 pm

In Palo Alto, PACCC parents pay $1500-1900/month. Even Menlo Park's GeoKids, which is a semi-coop, charges more than our city does. And let's not even talk about how much MP costs in comparison to hiring at nanny at $18-22/hour!

So yes, the parents ARE getting a bargain relative to other parents in the area. A bargain they wouldn't get if they weren't being subsidized. And don't overlook the fact that the school gets the land and facility rent-free, a hidden subsidy from the public.


Posted by Stop With The BS Already!, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 22, 2009 at 6:39 pm

Camille:

Stop spreading your half-truths and spin!

PACCC tuition for pre-schoolers is $1415/month, not $1900 - that's their rate for infants, which the MP program doesn't take!

And as for nannies - another apples and oranges comparison - MP doesn't offer nanny services.

Nannies are for the rich folk who wouldn't DARE think of having their oh-so-precious kids exposed to the working class kids in the MP program.

And once again, tuition covers all direct program costs - THERE IS NO SUBSIDY!!!!! Stop spreading this lie already - your cronies DuBoc and Winkler lost the election two long years ago - GET OVER IT ALREADY!!!!


Posted by Thanks "BS", a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 22, 2009 at 8:08 pm

Thanks "Stop With The BS Already", I was concerned that there were only normal, concerned, fiscally responsible citizens left in Menlo Park. Gosh, if we had that, what would we stress about?? "Half-truths?" $1,415 is not half of $1,900. "Nannies are for the rich folk who wouldn't DARE.....", wow you seem very angry. Why should you care about someone having a Nannie or not? There ARE subsidies, when the government gets involved, and has to build, pay for utilities, advertise and anything else that goes along with that property, THAT is a subsidy. FYI - DuBoc and Winkler have been gone for 2 years now, take responsibility for this fiasco NOW, with the current council. So, how 'bout YOU "GET OVER IT ALREADY!!!"


Posted by camille, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jan 22, 2009 at 9:02 pm

It's true that some of the PACCC preschools charge $1415, those with a high child:teacher ratio. The schools with a 6:1 ratio do charge $1490. Even with the new fee increase, that's more than a $200 difference between PACCC and MPCC

Menlo Park may not take infants, but they do take children between the ages of 18 mos and 3 years. Those tots set their parents back around $1925/month in Palo Alto, $400 more than in Menlo Park.

Note that the effort to get rid of city-supported care cuts across our typical partisan lines. Lee DuBoc and Chuck Bernstein agree on this issue, even if they don't agree on anything else. Just because Lee was one of the biggest sellouts ever to sit on council doesn't mean she's always wrong!


Posted by Setting The Record Straight, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 23, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Camille:

Guess what: The city charges MORE than PACCC for childcare - care to change your tune now?

City (MCC) Cost (per latest city Activity Guide - Winter/Spring 2009):
Toddlers: $1944/mo
Early Pre-School & Regular Pre-School: Both $1528/mo

PACCC Cost (from their website today):
Infant/Toddler: $1925/mo
Preschool: $1415 or $1490/mo depending on location/child-teacher ratio


And as far as Chuck Bernstein goes, of course he wants to privitize childcare - BECAUSE HE OPERATES A CHILDCARE CENTER HIMSELF and thus would love nothing more than to take it over and make more $$$ (as Homer would say, "Doh!").

How DuBoc ever got away with: 1) Chairing the childcare committee and 2) Having Chuck serve on it is beyond belief (but, hey, a lot of what those 3 did was beyond belief!).


Posted by camille, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jan 23, 2009 at 4:55 pm

The amounts you quote apply to non-residents. Non-residents are not subsidized. Menlo Park residents are. And until recently, when fees were raised, the subsidies were far greater.

I know Chuck, and he's a pretty busy guy who has repeatedly said that he has no interest in MP childcare. I have no reason to doubt that, and appreciate that he has been so generous in advising the city on these issues. The point remains: many of us who worked to oust Lee and Mickie are also opposed to the city staying in the child care business.


Posted by camille, a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Jan 23, 2009 at 4:56 pm

P.S. Not "changing my tune." Care to retract your, er, misstatements of fact?


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