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Menlo Watch: Frustration rises over child care program

Original post made on May 13, 2009

With fingers pointing every which way over the alleged mismanagement of Menlo Park's Burgess preschool child care program, the City Council voted 4-1 at its May 5 meeting to raise fees by 6 percent at the Menlo Children's Center in the Civic Center.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, May 13, 2009, 12:00 AM

Comments (60)

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Posted by Hank lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 13, 2009 at 12:29 pm

All the Childcare programs west of Highway 101 should not be subsidized at all. I attended a City Council meeting where one mother complained that after completing her expensive home remodel she could not afford to pay more for child care. So people living in townhomes, condos, and apartments should be subsidizing people who live in $2M+ homes? I don't think so. In most circumstances one would be hard-pressed to justify providing welfare for the rich.

If people can't afford to live in Menlo Park then they should move. With the exception of public schools (K-12) Parents need to pay for the upbringing of their children and not expect the city or state to do so.

The Childcare center should be privately operated ASAP. The operator should charge market rates. The resident who use the facility should pay the going rate. It is unconscionable for taxpayers to funds an activity the benefits so few people.

6% is not enough of a fee hike. There needs to be full cost recovery.


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Posted by MCC Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 13, 2009 at 2:56 pm

Dear Mr. Hank,

I am a parent at MCC who is very involved in the issue. First, let me start with a challenge: could you please point me to the specific Council Meeting where "one mother complained that after completing her expensive home remodel she could not afford to pay more for child care"?

Since I attended all of the council meetings myself, I am sure that you will not be able to do so. I am willing to go and look at the video of that specific Council Meeting if you just point me to it.

I am pretty sure that if you do look at videos from council meetings, what you will hear is this:

Parents have argued that SOME subsidies should remain for the following reasons:

1. Affordable childcare benefits the community at large, even if they are not the direct users of the service. A working community contributes to the economic growth and overall prosperity of a city, which is crucial especially during economic downturn. Childcare sustains the community's workforce by enabling both parents, especially women to take new jobs, sustain their existing jobs, and return to the workforce faster. Investing in childcare generates significant public savings over the long run and produces many long-term benefits.

Just like senior programs, teen and sports programs that the city subsidizes, childcare an important service that a child-friendly City provides for families with young children. Young families make the community vibrant, and it should be a community interest to keep them in the city by maintaining services that they need and can afford.

For those reasons, the user-fee study that was conducted for the City by an outside consulting company, suggested to place childcare in the middle-high cost recovery level (meaning, that a city would still subsidize about 25% - 15% of the service). You can find those recommendations presented to the City Council on Feb. 10th Study Session.

2. Affordable childcare allows the center to cater to a more diverse population, since not everyone that lives in the West side can afford expensive childcare (or, just like you mentioned yourself, Mr. Hank: "people living in townhomes, condos, and apartments" – yes, believe it or not, we have children too!); single parents, students, average-income families, one-income families, international families, etc. Removing subsidies all-together will drive those populations out of this important service. Parents at MCC welcome its diversity and multi-cultural environment, which leads to great learning and social awareness.

3. According to a city survey that was published in Feb. 2009, only 25% of residents are satisfied with the availability of affordable, quality childcare in Menlo Park. I completely agree with Mr. Hank that it is "unconscionable for taxpayers to funds an activity the benefits so few people". I can't agree more with that – If anything, more affordable spaces should be created to serve even more children in the community. Childcare should be available for everyone, not only the very rich or very poor. So far only MCC gave a somewhat affordable alternative (by the way, with the 11% fees increases that took place in the past year, it is no longer that "affordable", as we are currently paying the "going rate" and even more, if you compare what other places get for the same fees).

Many parents believe that privatization is a loose-loose solution:

1. The Community looses a wonderful already-operating quality childcare center. I want to remind everyone that a lot of our tax-payer money was already spent on the renovation of the current facility. The City could use MCC as a source of pride and a potential drawing point for young professional middle-class working families to move into the city/retain them here.

2. City doesn't gain anything: City "overhead" will still remain and while there will no longer have MCC to allocate it to, they will need to find other ways to deal with it (or not, in which case they will still be left with that overhead).

3. The children loose stable teachers with a very low turnover rate that is hard to find in private day-cares, mainly due to their excellent salaries and benefits (Outsourcing is a great option for many other services/positions – especially those where continuity of workers is not crucial. Instead of singling-out childcare, people who push for outsourcing government services should first look into outsourcing other community services where stability of workers is not an issue).

4. Teachers loose: Dedicated teachers who have been working in the place for over 20 years will loose their jobs.


OUR POSITION:

We, parents, don't believe that MCC should be overly (or, unintentionally) subsidized and have been working hard at trying to minimize those subsidies. Don't forget that we, too, are tax-paying residents of Menlo Park and our children use that facility for an average of 2-3 years and then move on. By the time that MCC is "outsourced" most of us will not even be active-users of the facility. So this is NOT about our selfish "demands" as people may be so quick to think. On the contrary, we are fighting for MCC mainly because we strongly believe it benefits the Community and we want to see future generations of children in Menlo Park able to use that facility, just as our children were so fortunate. We fight for it because we care about our community, first and foremost.

OUR SOLUTIONS:

We have suggested to the City Staff to restructure the program more efficiently in order to eliminate some of the subsidies (we are currently trying to work with the City Staff on the details). Besides restructuring, we also came up with ideas for new revenue streams for the center that will also give an answer to a need in the community: for example, use the facility to create new programs, such as Young-5/Kindergarden readiness program, etc.

We believe that by giving time for City Staff, MCC Staff and Parents to sit together to the table and implement the ideas that we all have, MCC will prove to be a financial success in the long run, just as it has been a huge success so far in meeting parents needs and taking care of our children!


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Posted by Bella
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 13, 2009 at 4:01 pm

MCC Parent: Well said!
Our child is no longer at the preschool, but I would hate to see such a wonderful resource disappear. While the management may be problematic, the staff is fantastic and a tremendous benefit to the children of Menlo Park.


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Posted by Frustrated
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 13, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Why is the city in the child care business? They clearly don't know what they are doing. Two directors in two years? Failure to collect fees from enrolled children? Let the private sector provide needed services instead of wasting more taxpayer money to provide below-cost care for a handful of families.


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Posted by been there...more than once
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 13, 2009 at 6:06 pm

And yet another thread on child care, and the same crew of parents show up on this forum and try to explain why the city needs to subsidize them (but not the rest of the parents in this city).

Child care should not be subsidized for anyone who can afford it. The city already offers several child care programs in Belle Haven on a reduced fee basis, and I have never heard any objections to that.

The city needs to get out of the child care business tomorrow. Issue a request for bids and turn the business over to a private contractor. Charge rent of $1/year. Done. There will be screams from the current parents, but it's got to happen, and in 3 years you'll have another set of parents who are thrilled with the private operators and have a fit if anyone tries to change a thing.


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Posted by MCC Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 13, 2009 at 7:47 pm

City run childcare has a huge value to the community since it keeps staff turn-over very low. No privately-run business can offer that (it can offer other wonderful things, for sure, but it will never be able to offer the same stability that city-run facility can!) It's a huge value to the Community and a great asset for any City to have. If anything, there should be more child-care centers such as this! Not for my children's sake, but for future generations of children in this city.

The City is in the "childcare business" anyway (no one is asking to privatize Belle Haven), so they should be asked to do it well! On both sides!

It's inconceivable that one private person will reap the benefits of what the community sawed. MCC already has the renovated-with-tax-$$$ facility, the excellent reputation, and customers are lined up. It can easily be a huge success - why shouldn't the city profit from that?

"Frustrated" says that the city "clearly doesn't know what they are doing". In a way this is correct: the city government has proved NOT to be efficient in the past 3 years. But I ask – why should we accept it as a fact? Why shouldn't we insist that our city runs the place properly? Because it's not only MCC that they run, but the same people are responsible for running many other programs in the city (including the other childcare center in the East side). So if they can't manage MCC properly, why should we think that they are running any other program, or the city, any better? If you want to privatize, then privatize EVERYTHING. Don't just single-out childcare! In fact, childcare should be the last thing to be privatized. Outsourcing is a great option for many other services – especially those where continuity of workers is not crucial. Privately owned daycares can perhaps offer many other great things, but they are not able to offer their teachers the same security that teachers at MCC have. The fact that MCC is able to retain its teachers is a key to its quality.


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Posted by been there
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 13, 2009 at 8:21 pm

Knock knock, MCC Parent: you're ignoring the elephant in the room. You mention all the reasons you love the center, but not why you deserve to have taxpayers footing part of the bill for your choice. If you find the center so wonderful, why aren't you willing to pay for it?


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Posted by MCC Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 13, 2009 at 11:20 pm

knock knock, been there: did you miss the part where I mentioned that we are actually paying a LOT of money?

And why do we "deserve" to have "taxpayers footing part of the bill"? Well, the answer is simple: we are taxpayers too and help to pay with our taxes for many other services for which we are also not the direct users. I believe that living in a community means that we should look for each other and think about what's best for the community as a whole and not only what serves our immediate personal interests.

My own children will be outgrowing MCC very soon, but I understand that there will be many others like me in the community who could benefit from having a wonderful resource such as MCC. I will then be paying from my taxpayer money to help THEM. This is exactly what a community is all about! Having childcare alternatives is good for a city. And since you missed that part (look at my first post, second comment from top), I will repeat it: "Affordable childcare benefits the community at large, even if they are not the direct users of the service. A working community contributes to the economic growth and overall prosperity of a city, which is crucial especially during economic downturn. Childcare sustains the community's workforce by enabling both parents, especially women to take new jobs, sustain their existing jobs, and return to the workforce faster. Investing in childcare generates significant public savings over the long run and produces many long-term benefits."

And I will repeat another part, in case you missed that as well: "We, parents, don't believe that MCC should be overly (or, unintentionally) subsidized and have been working hard at trying to minimize those subsidies."

Please let me know if you have any other questions.


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Posted by been there
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 14, 2009 at 8:47 am

There are already many child care alternatives in Menlo Park, including centers (similar to MCC but not subsidized by tax money) and family day cares. Many of us hire nannies. There are thousands of families in this community who are spending our own money on child care and not expecting a handout.

It is absolutely inappropriate to use public money to compete with the private sector. It is also wrong to use public money to support families who would like to live in the city but whose educational and career choices have not resulted in adequate income for them to afford it. What next?

Please don't give me that pathetic argument about women in the workforce. If you understood basic economics, you wouldn't make it.
There are some fine, much more affordable, privately operated day care options east of 101, available to anyone who is truly strapped for cash.

Turning the MCC over to a private operator would still enable parents to partake of the current benefits. Even though there would still be an implied subsidy because the center would be located on public property, I think most of us could live with that.

The parents don't need to "work hard to minimize subsidies." They just need to step up to the plate and pay the full cost without whining! Imagine that.


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Posted by A question
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 14, 2009 at 9:07 am

One thing that's hasn't been part of this discussion is the fact that when the bond measure -- was it Measure T? -- was passed, the first thing on the list of projects that would be enabled by the bond money was a children's center. If I'm remembering correctly, the sum of money projected for the center was huge. There were people who campaigned for the measure primarily because of the provision that the city would be able to have new, modernized space for child care, and open the doors for more kids.

My question is this: Wasn't the support by the voters for this bond money, to be spent, in part, on the children's center, an implicit approval of the city's role in providing child care?


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Posted by been there
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 14, 2009 at 9:23 am

One of the problems with Measure T was that it promised WAY more than the $38 million could provide. The bullet point on the Measure T brochure says:

"The development of a new childcare center to replace the temporary
portables currently used."

Not very grammatical, but anyway, the MCC is one of the few city facilities that did benefit from Measure T. The portables are long gone and the center is now housed in a beautiful facility.* Meanwhile, other bullet point items, including the rec center, will never see a penny of Measure T money. The MCC was one of the major beneficiaries of Measure T.

*I realize that some MCC parents will never get over the fact that they were not given a super deluxe Taj Mahal with four kitchens, but when their children are older, they may appreciate the fact that the gyms, playing fields, and aquatic facilities also received some of those funds.


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Posted by MCC Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 14, 2009 at 10:31 am

Thank you so much for your question, "A question". You are absolutely correct! This is one of the tenets on which we base our fight for MCC. This, plus the city survey that was published in Feb. '09 clearly show that there is a need for affordable childcare (only a very low percentage of 25% of residents are satisfied with the availability of affordable, quality childcare in Menlo Park). This is the base for our claim that there is a support in our community to have a city-run facility. We strongly believe that there is a need and that it will benefit the community and future generations in Menlo Park.

There is a very interesting article that talks about the issue. I will quote a little from there: How did the city get to this point? In 2001 the voters passed Measure T by a 70 percent majority. Lee Duboc personally recruited parents to volunteer on the campaign phone bank using a script that made the MCC the centerpiece of Measure T.

The commitment as described on the ballot and in the city's literature was to build "a new children's center to replace the temporary portables." In 2002 the council unanimously approved the design and construction of the MCC.

Web Link


Unfortunately, that decision was turned over for political reasons, and AGAINST the implicit wishes of the voters.


As for "been there": It really saddens me that there are a few entitled people in this community who think that because THEY "use nannies" we all should. Using a nanny is a wonderful option for whoever can afford it! Using a private daycare is also wonderful for whoever chooses to or gets in.

Obviously "been there" is not willing to participate in any serious discussion about this because you are trying to reduce our valid arguments into personal derogatory comments (Re: "pathetic argument" etc.) and polemic and polarizing remarks such as that we are "expecting a handout".

Defining the needs in a community and allocating funds to meet those needs is NOT a "handout". This is what governments do – they see where there is a need in the community and they allocate the money to do that. We all chip in to that general fund and we all have different needs at different stages of our lives. We all accept that sometimes we fund things that we personally don't use because we understand that others in our community need them or that at some other point in our lives we will use them.

Yes, it would be much easier for some if it was a homogenous community, where ALL of the people are the same and they have the exact same needs. But the reality is that we live in a community where we don't all have the same income, same needs or same wishes. We are different people, which is what make a community vibrant! If we all just thought about ourselves or people LIKE us and told everyone else to leave the city (as "been there" not-so-politely is asking us to do), then where will this community end up?


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Posted by been there
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 14, 2009 at 10:45 am

>>This is what governments do – they see where there is a need in the community and they allocate the money to do that.<<

Wow. You invalidate any logic in your arguments with comments like that. We are not communists or socialists, and government does not exist to meet your personal needs.

Measure T was promoted as a parks and recreation bond designed to improve recreational facilities throughout the community. The MCC is not a recreational facility, and parents should consider themselves fortunate that they got any money, much less a brand new center.


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Posted by MCC Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 14, 2009 at 11:16 am

I think that I have written enough to substantiate my claim that this is not a "personal need", but a "community need". You can go back and read all my previous comments.

MCC was and is part of Community Services Department. MCC was specifically part of the measure T bond, whether you personally like it or not.


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Posted by Think about it
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 14, 2009 at 11:34 am

MCC Parent is right about the Measure T bond. And, as was noted above, the MCC was emphasized by campaigners as a way to sell the measure to voters. Doesn't the success of the measure at the polls suggest that, with the MCC so prominently featured in the advocacy campaign, the community supports the city providing child care services?


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Posted by been there
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 14, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Measure T was called the Parks and Recreation Bond. The subtitle: Menlo Citizens Task Force has developed a plan to renovate and expand local parks and recreation facilities." The pictures on the campaign materials were of dilapidated recreation areas.

Lee Duboc acknowledged that she may have slanted the facts a little when she recruited MCC parents to help. Maybe you should have asked more questions? Lee was opposed to the Taj Mahal.

To suggest that voter support for a parks and recreation bond means that Menlo Park residents want the city to provide child care services is an exercise in pretzel logic. Residents wouldn't have voted for the bond if it had been positioned as an MCC bond. If you don't realize that, you're in la la land.


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Posted by MCC Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 14, 2009 at 12:48 pm

"been there", I can fully understand your frustration: you naively assumed that the bond meant one thing by looking at the subtitle and the picture and now you realize that if you have read the text fully you would have discovered that it meant also a NEW childcare facility.

As "Think about" it eloquently wrote: "MCC was emphasized by campaigners as a way to sell the measure to voters".

One of the many reason that Lee Duboc is no longer sitting in the Council is that she "slanted the facts a little" by promising a new childcare facility to voters and then derailed that plan. A new facility would have given many more children in the city the opportunity to enjoy affordable child-care. The fact that it not able to cater to everyone in this community is that the remodeled center is limited in its capacity and is not expandable to accommodate more children. Lee Duboc was removed from Council partly for that and we are now left with a smaller facility. The least we can do is take care of the excellent program that it offers and maintain its value to the community.


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Posted by Menlo Park Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 14, 2009 at 1:48 pm

Diversity in income is something we should welcome in Menlo Park. People have different talents, talent to make money being not the only important one. A community where all are rich is not necessarily a good and interesting community to live in. I'm sure most MP residents would agree with that.

Menlo Park should have an offer for families in middle income brackets the same way it has for lower income brackets. Let's opt for diversity - and that doesn't require a communistic or socialistic kind of administration, but one with a broad perspective and good understanding of what is really important and healthy for our community.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 14, 2009 at 2:09 pm

Measure T was intentionally pitched to the public with many different 'goodies' in order to gather enough votes. It was clear at the time that there would ultimately be dissappointments, and the organizers shrugged this off (the ends justifies the means).

MP should not be in the early childcare business (certainly on the west side). There are alternatives available. The liability is too great; it's difficult, if not impossible, to remove 'underperforming' staff.

MP childcare is disaster waiting to happen.

Palo Alto keeps theirs at arm's length, and so should Menlo Park.


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Posted by been there
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 14, 2009 at 2:17 pm

This may surprise you, MCC parent, but I have a longstanding involvement with child care related issues, and served on the city's child care task force a few years ago. I was also at the center of the Measure T campaign and subsequent developments, and am quite aware that the MCC was mentioned on the campaign literature. About 99% of the text pertained to other recreational opportunities for children and adults; there is only one line that references the center.

You got your brand new center. It's not the Taj Mahal. Not only was there no demand for such a large facility -- there were always vacancies in the toddler/preschool program -- building the TM would have siphoned off money from all the parks and recreational programs in the city -- the ones that the Measure T voters wanted to improve.

Anyway, none of the arguments seem to suggest that it would be a mistake to turn the center over to a private operator and get the city out of the business. There's a reason that MP is just about the only city in the Bay Area to run its own program -- it doesn't make sense for a city to do so. The private operator will charge market rates, and the 20-year discussion will finally end.


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Posted by been there
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 14, 2009 at 2:22 pm

Parent, I only wish that MP would follow the fine model that Palo Alto has established, one that supports all child care programs in the city -- meeting the diverse needs of different families -- while keeping the city itself out of the operations. Palo Alto also has onsite afterschool care, which MP parents prefer (according to the research conducted by the cc task force).

We have a long way to go to catch up, but divesting the MCC would be a big step in the right direction.


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Posted by MCC Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 14, 2009 at 2:44 pm

Dear been there,

Finally your conversation starts to make some sense. It would be nice to have a true dialogue about this issue, and parents are open for discussion.

Since we are involved in all the details ourselves, we can clearly see the disadvantages of having the city run a child-care business but we can also point out to the huge advantages. It's simple and it's definitely not black and white.

My point in this comment would be that MCC is NOT the only child-care facility that the city runs. So, if MP really wants to get out of child-care (because of all the issues that you mentioned above, including liabilities), then it should outsource BOTH child-care centers. But if the city DOES decide to stay in the child-care business (and they clearly do, because no one is suggesting to close Belle Haven center), then they must do it efficiently!

There is no point in singling MCC while there is another city-run childcare in this city. They should BOTH either be outsources or managed properly by the city!


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Posted by a working mother
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 14, 2009 at 3:01 pm

[Post removed; see terms of use]


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Posted by Tiffany Schneider
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 14, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Affordable child is a right not a privilege. As a mother to a three year old in Menlo Park, I am appaled by the lack of availabiity of childcare nonetheless of quality childcare in the community. Had I realized this before purchasing my home, I may have moved to somewhere like Los Altos where the ratio is much more reasonable. It's astounding to me that the city puts so much money into maintaining the pool and park but finds childcare unnecessary where the majority of the community is working couple's in their thirties where both partners need to work in order to afford the cost of living.


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Posted by Resident of Menlo Park
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 14, 2009 at 3:42 pm

Menlo Park should be proud for having a child-care center!† Keep it up!


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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 14, 2009 at 4:00 pm

been there...more than once is spot on. He has framed the issue with such lucidity that it can not be refuted by any rational person.


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Posted by Menlo Park Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 14, 2009 at 4:04 pm

"been there" should do a proper research on the following:
1. Childcare availibility in MP
2. Programs in other cities
3. Cost of private run daycares
4. Quality of private run daycares

Do a proper research and then publish the results so we can check them towards what you are now saying. You have obviously little knowledge of the real childcare situation in MP and other places.

And the Parent is right, MP is already in childcare business and it will stay in the childcare business as there is no talks about privatizing Belle Haven (and rightly so). Privatization is not an excuse for inneficietly run programs, be it childcare or any other program. The argument "we don't know how to do this" doesn't fly. Learn it, administration, because you have to also run Belle Haven efficiently to maximize the money invested and value of that facility for the community. Once you know how to do it, you can run several facilities well.

Parents have shown that MCC can be run efficiently and recover most, if not all, of its cost. Administration should follow the parent's advise and keep offering this valuable service to the community.

Personaly, I would love to see more offordable childcare be made available to the MP community as it benefits us all in very many ways, be it directly or indirectly.

Btw, does anyone have any insight into how the Belle Haven program is being run? It would be interesting to have that program scrutinized as well....


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Posted by been there
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 14, 2009 at 5:26 pm

I don't know what constitutes "proper research" but most of that information is available online. For example, Menlo Park's own study (facilitated by the county's 4Cs organization) indicates that the existing supply of MP child care is satisfactory except for infants - 2 years old, where there is a lack of adequate care. And MCC does not provide infant care because it's not cost effective. See www.menlopark.org/council/staffreport/2002/10/101502h1.pdf

"Privatizing" seems to be a scary concept for some. Does "operated by a non-profit organization" sound better? See www.paccc.com/ for a description of the program that I think we should emulate. Note that financial aid/subsidies are available, but only for people who need them. In Menlo Park, we have parents with $1,000,000 annual incomes who receive subsidized care -- paid for by people who earn a lot less. That just isn't right.

Yes, I believe that all the care centers, including those in Belle Haven, should be operated by a 501(c)(3) organization that is separate from the city itself.

Look at the PACCC website and see what they offer, including educational opportunities for care providers and other community benefits. Wouldn't it be better to have child care under the umbrella of an organization that is totally devoted to providing different care opportunities for families than to continue to run it as the city's baby-in-a-basket-on-the-doorstep unwanted stepchild?


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Posted by MCC Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 14, 2009 at 7:32 pm

Dear been there,

We don't rule out any options, especially non-profit ones.

But we also don't think that MCC is a "baby-in-a-basket-on-the-doorstep unwanted stepchild", as you phrase it. On the contrary - we rave about the program, love the teachers, and think that it has a great value to the community. The place has been running for over 20 years with a very stable staff, its own special diverse culture and should get a fair chance of recovering and we, parents, are willing to help.

You don't go and start "outsourcing" services just because a few people don't think they are necessary. You can definitely consider outsourcing if that service doesn't have any value to the community or is constantly loosing money. Since MCC definitely has a value to the community (to past user, current users and potential future ones), and since many parents think that it's possible to make the place more efficient and increase revenue, I think that it should be given a fair chance. Especially since it's something so loved and dear to so many in this community!


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Posted by Wanda Noemo
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 15, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Doesn't anyone here remember the last disastrous outsourcing effort? With the lack of interest from all reputable care providers? The complete waste of staff time? The stress for parents?

Does Menlo Park really want another give-away of a public facility?


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 15, 2009 at 4:42 pm

I have one very simple question to address to all that so desperately wishes to do away with MCC one way or another.

Why is subsidized care/education for 3-5 years old children so incredibly objectionable when subsidized schools don't seem to be?

Surely, most Menlo Park residents can afford to send their children to private schools as well? I would also guess that the places like MCC have a substantial draw for anyone buying a house in a place like Menlo Park, do we in the name of saving a few dollars want to potentially devalue all of our house values?

Furthermore, the MCC is an absolutely fabulous center. Keep the good work up.


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Posted by Menlo Park Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 15, 2009 at 5:29 pm

"been there", AFIK there are no parents at MCC that make a million dollar a year. Would you mind sharing with us where you got that information from? Parents that make that kind of money do not use this kind of care because there is much better care available for people that can pay more. This discussion is about middle class families, families that cannot afford to have mom at home or pay for a fulltime nanny - which is a much better alternative, I'm sure you agree. It is also about families that need part time flexibility but can only afford to pay a certain amount for it. Subsidy is not innapropriate in this situations. It is in fact an investment in the community and the community profits from it in variety of ways.

Please understad many of us in the community think it is important to have a middle class in MP. A lot of very talented people are in the middle class. MCC services this community. The upper class is not being serviced so subsidies are not being given to the rich. They are being given to young, hard working and very talented individuals trying to build a life in our town. And they should be welcome!


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Posted by been there
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 15, 2009 at 5:51 pm

Wow. I understand why the council has so often caved to the MCC parents. You are a vocal and adamant bunch. Not everything is black and white, and what is good for you is not necessarily what's good for the city.

Wanda, there has never been a bona fide RFP. And, in fact, it may not be possible at this time to find a quality care provider that is willing to come in and deal with the somewhat hostile and opinionated parent population that seems to comprise the majority of MCC clients. The parents have earned a reputation for being difficult, and most seem to think that's a good thing.

Anon, privatizing MCC is not the same as getting rid of it. It would be wise, for many reasons, for the city to get out of the child care business. And I don't think we would object to subsidized care if ALL preschool care were subsidized (which it is in some countries, but that is a topic for another thread). As it is, MCC operates like a private preschool, except that it receives public money. You simply cannot fairly compare it to the public schools that are open to all.

MP Resident, the point isn't the $ earnings of parents (and you might be surprised how much some MCC parents earn) but the fact that ALL receive the subsidy regardless of earnings. I know parents in Menlo Park who have housekeeping and gardening jobs, people who can't afford the deluxe care provided by MCC -- and they are also subsidizing the care of middle class families as well as struggling to pay for their own children's care.

Amidst these emotional arguments, no one has commented on the suggestion that MP adopt a model similar to that used in Palo Alto. Many MP parents don't want their kids to attend a center like MCC. Wouldn't it be better for the city to create a child care structure that supports all kind of care for families throughout the city rather than run a couple of centers that serve a few dozen families?






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Posted by MP Property Owner & Reisdent
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 15, 2009 at 5:59 pm

Parents should not expect, the larger community, to subsidize a lifestlye that may no longer affordable. It is all about priorties, we should all expect to pay for the choices we make. Isn't this another form of entitlement?

The city staff and council members, need to take an inventory of the core competencies. Menlo Park needs outsource this model, and eliminiate all subsidies for this the endeavor.


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Posted by MCC Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 15, 2009 at 6:40 pm

Dear "been there",

By "You are a vocal and adamant bunch...hostile and opinionated parent population" did you mean "voicing our legitimate opinions"? There's no need to belittle us. As you probably know, we are not the first set of "parents" to oppose privatization, as the parents that were there 3 years ago are not the same set of parents that use the facility now. So maybe there is a point that you are missing?

I can say the same to you: "what is good for you is not necessarily what's good for the city". We all have different opinions and it would be nice if you could respect those who are different than yours.

Besides your demeaning word-selection, you express some legitimate opinions. I already specifically addressed them in my comments above, but I am happy to address them again:

>> It would be wise, for many reasons, for the city to get out of the child care business

Well, there are actually two city-run facilities. Either the city outsources them BOTH, OR we should ask the city to run them BOTH efficiently! No excuses!

>> I don't think we would object to subsidized care if ALL preschool care were subsidized

That's a great idea! I too think that MORE spaces should be created, so that whoever wants to use a city-run childcare service can! Don't take away the little that is already there.

>> no one has commented on the suggestion that MP adopt a model similar to that used in Palo Alto.

I did answer in one of my above comments: "We don't rule out any options, especially non-profit ones. But we also don't think that MCC is a "baby-in-a-basket-on-the-doorstep unwanted stepchild", as you phrase it. On the contrary - we rave about the program, love the teachers, and think that it has a great value to the community. The place has been running for over 20 years with a very stable staff, its own special diverse culture and should get a fair chance of recovering and we, parents, are willing to help.

You don't go and start "outsourcing" services just because a few people don't think they are necessary. You can definitely consider outsourcing if that service doesn't have any value to the community or is constantly loosing money. Since MCC definitely has a value to the community (to past user, current users and potential future ones), and since many parents think that it's possible to make the place more efficient and increase revenue, I think that it should be given a fair chance. Especially since it's something so loved and dear to so many in this community!"

Dear MP Property Owner & Resident,

I am also a property owner and resident and I also pay for many things that I don't use and to support lifestyle choices of other people in this community. Who's to say what are the priorities of this community? We should definitely discuss them!








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Posted by Menlo Park Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 15, 2009 at 7:22 pm

Mr. been there, we all, middle class or not, regardless of how much we make, support the rich, the poor,the old and the needy (illegal immigrants included)through the city's projects and initiatives.

Think about wonderful Burgess Park, who do you think paid for its remodelling? The rich only? Who do you think benefits the most from what has been done there? The poor from the East or the more affluent neighboors? And who can afford to have its children attending $125 classes there today? Who uses the facility the most? The poor? The cash stripped middle class? Should the park not exist because it benefits mostly the people that live close to it?

So are the rich not being served by the subsidies and services provided by the community? Are not the poor? We ALL are, rich and poor - and so should the middle class. We all benefit from the services provided one way or the other. What are you complaining about? What are you missing? What can the city do to help you? Or are you only complaining and bashing the parents because you have nothing to do or worry about?

If we were to buy into Mr. been there arguments, we should all be upset because we are supporting part of the population we do not belong to, or projects that don't benefit us directly, or which are in parts of towns we do not belong to. Well, we are a society and a community. Think about the meaning of those words! Money goes in and gets distributed around, some benefit from some projects, some from others. All should be taken care of, not only the rich, not only the poor. Don't like it? Move to Texas, or to Florida, which is where many like-minded live. Middle class - and diversity - is in Menlo Park to stay! Don't like it? Leave it.

About PACCC, talk to parents that have had their kids there and look at the price list.

About parents being a pain in the buttocks, persistance means survival and being resourceful means that too. Parents in MP may not all be rich, but they are smart people so do not underestimate them.


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Posted by been there
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 15, 2009 at 8:15 pm

A lot of rhetoric, MP Resident, does not camouflage the fact that a handful of people who are using what is essentially a private facility -- not open to everyone, as a park is -- are being subsidized by everyone else.

I've been involved in child care issues for over 20 years -- as a consultant, mother, member of city task forces pertaining to child care issues. I was on the committee that interviewed architects to design the MCC! Historically, only about half the MCC children have been from MP. And it has had a reputation as a relatively poorly run facility (I hear you parents have a different perspective, but I understand there's been a lot of turnover at the top, and that's never good.) I've talked to community services staff who roll their eyes over the antics of MCC parents. And I've served on task forces with MCC parents. Maybe those parents weren't representative of most, but they stood out in a group of people who were trying to reach consensus because of their selfishness, as if they were lobbyists gunning for the biggest piece of pie.

Result: it's been more difficult than it should be for the city council and staff to make decisions that are in the best interests of Menlo Park -- because any changes to the MCC often set off emotions that can border on hysteria.

No one wants to shut down the MCC or the Belle Haven facility! But those facilities should be run in a way that doesn't cost the city any money and also doesn't expose the city to liability. PACCC prices are higher than Menlo Park's because parents pay for what they get (no subsidies!) but there is financial aid available for those who need it. A much better model than giving out aid to all, don't you think?


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Posted by MCC Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 15, 2009 at 8:59 pm

Been there - your credentials are certainly impressive. I guess you assume they also make you right?

The issue is NOT black and white! There are pros and cons to every solution. Why don't you just respect the opinions that are different than yours and try to have a true conversation?

Using words such as "rhetoric" and "antics" for every intelligent argument that condradicts your preset vision, doesn't necessarily make you right. You claim that you've "talked to community services staff who roll their eyes over the antics of MCC parents" - maybe they were rolling their eyes over YOUR antics??? In any case, as far as I know "eyes rolling" never solved any problem and this is certainly NOT an appropriate way for Community Services people to behave when approached about a serious issue such as child-care. If that's how our Community Service people behave, it definitely doesn't show much respect. I only hope that the reason for their "eyes rolling" were directed towards you!

I truly hope that the people that are sitting in THIS task-force are not going to be as narrow-minded and disparaging as you have proved to be in the many comments that you contributed to this important subject. You are certainly NOT the kind of person who should be sitting on important tasks such as child-care.

Now, again, I am going to comment on the only legitimate issue that you raise in your comment:

>> it has had a reputation as a relatively poorly run facility

Our answer to that: YES, the City hasn't done a good job so far running the place! We suspect that they also don't run Belle Haven facility as they probably should (any Belle Haven parents out there that can corroborate that? We don't know since we haven't looked into that). And we say: as long as the City is in the "childcare business" (and they ARE, as long as they run Belle Haven as well) - they better do a better job running it!!! Either that, or get out of the "childcare business" altogether. But don't single-out MCC alone. If the City decided that it's not "competent" to run a child-care, they shouldn't be running Belle Haven as well. And I also ask: if they are not "competent" in the city to be able to run a child-care center (despite the fact that they are over 20 years in this business) than we should questions the capabilities of the people who are in the city.

We are paying a lot of money to have competent people in the city. We believe they can do a good job and we expect them to! If they can't do a good job, they should privatize EVERYTHING.


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Posted by been there
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 15, 2009 at 9:55 pm

MCC Parent, surely you don't want to sully yourself by being as narrow-minded and disparaging as you accuse me of being! No rolled-eyes in my direction, sorry. I wasn't the one dragging my pj-clad tots to city council meetings so that they could sob at any reference to price hikes. I am proud of our current council for their clear-eyed ability to overlook the excess emotion and make a decision that is right for the city.

>>>You are certainly NOT the kind of person who should be sitting on important tasks such as child-care.<<<

"Kind of person" meaning a volunteer who cares about the entire community, not just a sheltered few? Guilty, I guess! Unfortunately, as much as some MCC parents try to stack the proverbial deck, you can't always get what you want!


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Posted by MCC Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 15, 2009 at 10:22 pm

Sorry. I am getting a little tired. Didn't mean to disparage you. :-)

The reason that kids were in Council meetings is that for some parents that is the only way that they are able to attend. Since not everyone has a nanny on-call (undermines your assumption that all parents at MCC are millionares), most parents between 7:00 - 9:00 have to take care of their kids, which is the time that Council meetings occur! This is also the main reason why many parents can't attend those meetings and the reason why so few of us are there (while many more feel the same!).

I am sure that you care about the community. Well, that makes two of us!

MCC may be privatized (I, personally, think it will be a great loss to this community) and it may be given a chance to succeed. I don't know. Whatever happens, people need to speak up to what they think. Most of us are usually too busy in our daily lives to get too involved in what is going on in the community, so I can see how some few individuals who are usually more involved may think that they are representing the whole "community". But the fact that people are simply too busy doesn't mean that they necessarily agree with you. Or me!




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Posted by Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 16, 2009 at 1:12 am

We all know that hundreds of families in MP have benefited from the services provided by MCC, and not only a handful one as "been there" portraits. It is open to everyone, one just need to put oneself in the waiting list, I have learned. Why is that? because there is not enough space for everyone. Wasn't the Center supposed to be bigger? Did not the people of MP vote for that? And whose decision was it to make it smaller? Know your history, "been there".

The fact that the Center is poorly run doesn't need to mean it has to be in the future. City staff can learn as well, or is lack of accountability something we simply accept from the administration? In the private sector, if you run something poorly you get fired. What is the story in the public sector? You run it poorly and blame it on the program or on everyone else? Unacceptable to most of us.

Could it be eyes are rolling over parent's demands because they are putting pressure on staff to get the program to be efficiently run? The numbers tell by itself. Do the math.

MCC parents use the Center for 2-3 years and then move on and I doubt they are only thinking about themselves when trying to preserve the offering. It is a service the whole community needs. And should not parent's show emotion when the issue is raised (and that seems to be every half a year or so)? How would you react if your nanny was being attacked?

I have looked at the numbers. If efficiently managed MCC can recover its cost, but that demands open mindedness from the city administration. If MCC is better run, so will Belle Haven, since the same people runt the program. Will the entire MP community not win from that? Or should we just allow MCC to be privatized or killed and let Belle Haven be poorly run?

As for PACCC, one should really talk to families that have had their children there. Experiences vary enormously.

As for children attending Council meetings, isn't that great? Should we not be reminded they exist? Should parents not been there because they have kids, if bringing them along is the only alternative? And, "being there", you say you are a mother so you should know this: children don't cry on command.

Lastly, people that really care about the community are usually able to see needs and circunstances other than their own.


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Posted by ex- MCC Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 18, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Wouldnt it be nice to see the "community" come together to save a landmark that almost all agree was utlimately paid for by the Menlo Park tax payers, Measure T. If we as a community could come together to save a private instituition like Kepler's, why not work together to make sure we save a landmark and ensure its run effectively & efficiently not just today but for future generations to come? So rather than challenging the relentless efforts of the MCC parents ( who as they righfullt admitted wont even benefit from this in time)why not suggest ways in which to save or improve the obviously dis-satisfactory way in which elected and accountable bodies have run the program!


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Posted by Forrest
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 18, 2009 at 5:40 pm

The staff at MCC is great. The problem seems to be the management in the city Rec department.

Outsourcing MCC to a private childcare operator isn't going to take care of the root of the problem -- upper management that doesn't communicate clearly, think strategically or work efficiently. Outsourcing would mean that the city will lose another wonderful resource, and the people who are the problem will still be working for the city. Excellent teachers will be fired, and young children will lose the stability of caring and well-educated caregivers.

If the city can fix the management problems with MCC, it will also help improve the administrative staff as a whole, and that definitely benefits every Menlo Park resident. Don't throw out the baby with the bath water.


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Posted by OMG
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on May 18, 2009 at 9:03 pm

MCC isn't a "landmark!" It is a mediocre childcare facility at best, in need of a major overhaul. MP City isn't qualified or able to oversee the changes that need to be made to bring their level of care up to par. If indeed its advocates are so sure of their excellence, let them prove it in a bid process once and for all. Enough already.


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Posted by MCC Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 18, 2009 at 9:54 pm

But there was indeed a bid, 3 years ago, and the city's bid was the last one standing! Why waste all those resources again while all that time and energy can go into improving the management of the facility? Forrest nailed the problem!


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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 19, 2009 at 7:40 am

the MCC is run poorly because it is operated by the City of Menlo Park which has very little experience in operating child care centers. The MCC should be closed and the MCC parents should do what the rest of the parents in Menlo Park do and that is send their children to privatized and vastly superior child care centers.

Why should parents who send their children to privatized child care pay for parents who use the MCC. Isn't that a bit unfair? I am tired of this caterwauling. I can remember sitting in a council meeting where one MCC mother was complaining how she could not afford a raise in the child care fees as she had just finished an extensive remodeling of her home and just could not pay any more.

If you can not afford to live in Menlo Park you should move to a more affordable city. But don't expect the other Menlo Park residents to subsidize your standard of living. Especially those of us who live in townhomes, condominiums, and apartments. Get Real!


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Posted by Face facts
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 19, 2009 at 8:15 am

Hank, You're wrong when you say the city has very little experience in operating child care centers. The city's been doing just that for many years, and from what many people who had experience with the program in the past have told me, the city ran the programs well.

You've been very clear you don't think the city should be in the child care business, and I respect that opinion, even if I haven't made up my mind one way or the other. But a huge question for me is, why is the child care program so poorly run now? Who in city hall is responsible for the deterioration of this once well-run program? And I have to wonder, too, if city "managers" aren't intentionally letting the program go to pot so that, in the words of one notorious political stinker, it will be easier to drown the baby in the bathtub.


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Posted by been there
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 19, 2009 at 10:20 am

The program has never been well run! It wasn't well run when it was Poppy, which is why the parents begged the city to take it over.

I considered MCC at different times for two of my children --would have been so convenient for my family--but did not find the management acceptable. The director stood me up twice after I'd made an appointment (I've talked to other parents who had the same experience) and I was shocked that I could walk into a classroom and talk to children without seeing an adult, much less have anyone walk up to me and question my presence. Throughout most of its existence, the MCC has not had a good reputation.

In the course of serving on various city task forces and commissions related to the MCC, I have heard anecdotal explanations for the reason that the city continued to operate the MCC, and the responses have invariably pointed to the difficult, whining, self-entitled parents. An objective person reading this thread would probably get the same impression of the MCC parents (I realize there are others who haven't posted who may be more reasonable.)

Let me say it again: the city should not be in the business of operating a child care center. The city should turn over the MCC to a private operator who will pay market rent. The MCC isn't going away -- it's got a nice new building -- so it will still be available to parents, but they will need to pay market prices, no subsidies from taxpayers.

If the city wants to support child care, and I think that's an excellent idea, I suggest an umbrella model that promotes all forms of care within the city, providing parents with access to information, augmenting training opportunities for employees, and facilitating the permit process so that new family day care programs can open/continue to operate. The umbrella organization can also help with financial aid for those families that need it. A public program should serve the public, not just a few people!

The city has had 20 years to prove that it can run a child care program effectively and efficiently. Enough. It's time to move on.


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Posted by Diana
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 19, 2009 at 11:43 am

Been there writes: "the responses have invariably pointed to the difficult, whining, self-entitled parents. An objective person reading this thread would probably get the same impression of the MCC parents."

I've been following this thread from the beginning, and no, I don't get that impression. The person identifying herself as MCC Parent, in particular, has been extremely reasonable, rational and respectful. No whining, just an apparent desire to fix/change the system for the good of the community.

Though I have no young kids who might use child care, I find this issue interesting and important, which is why I'm following this debate. Been there, you've made some very good points, but trying to paint this matter into a struggle between people of your opinion and "difficult, whining, self-entitled parents" is counterproductive and not reflective of reality.

I'd like to see more discussion of the possibility of bringing in a nonprofit to run child care. If the city can't seem to do a decent job running this program, an experienced organization that isn't governed by the profit motive might be the answer. Meanwhile, city staff in charge of the program should have their performance reviewed. There needs to be some accountability here.


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Posted by been there
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 19, 2009 at 1:21 pm

My apologies if I came across as overly doctrinaire. I did not mean to suggest that all MCC parents were greedy, and agree that MCC Parent has been eminently reasonable.

This issue does not affect me directly, as my kids are past preschool age, and if the city saved whatever money it's currently losing on the MCC, I doubt too many of us (if any) would see any benefits. But I doubt I am the only person who wants to see the city run in a more businesslike fashion, which means taking a hard look at all cost centers (as well as revenues) and not just continuing to do something because "that's the way we've always done it" (a refrain I've heard too many times!),


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Posted by MCC Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 19, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Dear been there,

I can't agree more with you - MCC should be run more in a "businesslike fasion"! I also agree that something needs to be done about it!

We, parents, are the first ones to be worried that the center is not run as efficiently as it should. And we strongly believe that it CAN run more efficiently (and SHOULD) even if it stays a city-run facility. Also for the sake of other city-run programs, don't you think it would be wiser if more people in the community held the city-staff accountable for the projects that they manage? Wouldn't we all be better off if they did? Sure, to privatize is one solution, but it's the "easy way out" solution for them. Instead, we are proposing another solution - it may take more work from the city staff, but it will be for the interest of everyone if they did a good job! It will also potentially benefit the other city-run facility AS WELL as other city-run programs. It, at least, should be given a fair chance.

You seem to have a lot of valid opinions about this issue and a lot of valuable information. I would really love to be able to sit down with you and analyze the pros and cons of all the available options. I hope that you will be attending the Commission meeting on Wednesday evening. I will be there, and it would be great if you would come and introduce yourself to me (I have no way of knowing who you are, but you will probably know who I am).

Just know that we are really interested in what's best for the community. And for that reason, as MANY opinions and as MANY different solutions should be looked at seriously. And I think that we should take it step by step, because it is more difficult to undo something that is already done. It's better-off to start with solutions that can be undone if they don't work out and than move on to "plan B".


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Posted by been there
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on May 19, 2009 at 6:28 pm

Ah, so there is a parks and rec meeting to discuss this? I had no idea! The article that begins this thread doesn't mention it, and I just flipped through the May 20 Almanac and don't see it. No doubt it's there somewhere! But I'm sure all the MCC parents know about it, and no doubt will be providing the p&r commissioners with a balanced perspective.

Our city does a wretched job of getting the word out to the public. I've subscribed to a few of their lists, but I usually only find out what's going on via word of mouth.

I can't make the meeting but (now that I know about it) will email the commissioners. Thank you, MCC Parent.



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Posted by MCC Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 19, 2009 at 6:58 pm

Great idea! Please write to them. I will even do more than that - I will make sure that they get a chance to read this thread and follow the arguments of both sides!


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Posted by Wishing for a solution
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 20, 2009 at 12:40 pm

I wonder why no one publishes some facts:
-Number of current kids in program
-% that are Menlo Park residents
-% that are low-income. Does one have to qualify for the childcare program?
-average costs of services/child compared to private programs

The fees seem high even with the subsidy from the city, so there are clearly inefficiencies, too much overhead, or wages are not comparable to private facilities.

If indeed, the role of childcare is to assist those families that could otherwise not work or afford childcare, why doesn't Menlo Park offer a subsidy to those that qualify for additional benefits (I think Palo Alto does this) and the center would operate like any other as a profit center with a mix of paid and subsidized children.

Childcare is not a right and I feel privileged to afford my own care even when my childcare sometimes cost more than what I was earning. I made the choice to have children, buy a house, and to work. I would not ask my fellow citizens to share the burden for the choices I made. We take full advantage of many of the investments from our tax dollars - parks, gym facilities, public events, etc. I just don't see why Menlo Park should be one of the few cities to also invest in a center that ultimately is available to a handful of families each year.

It would be great to see the goals of our community outlined on this issue and what is the purpose of childcare in the community. If we believe it is a right, then everyone family with young children should receive a subsidy or voucher. If those at MCC truly believe it is such a great asset they certainly cannot argue that everyone should benefit equally who needs childcare.

I would vote for privatizing and then allotting budget for subsidies or vouchers for those that qualify and thus meeting the needs of any family regardless of where they live in Menlo Park and whether they get on a waitlist early enough.

Someone also commented on the fact that only MCC was left in the running for the center several years ago. If you go back, you'll see that the other companies backed out due to pressure from the unions. It was not a fair competition and our city should make sure that this does not happen again.

I cannot attend tonight and I fear, like so many issues, the loud voices will be heard from those who it impacts directly and not from the many citizens that are unable to attend the meeting tonight.

Best, wishing for a solution soon to put this issue at rest


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Posted by MCC Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 20, 2009 at 2:29 pm

Dear Wishing...

I am also trying to get the Almanac to post some more facts on the issue, along with some alternative solutions. I also think that it will benefit the whole community to get more facts, instead of just predetermined "solutions" or unbased argumentations. This is the role of the commission, and I trust that they will gather as many facts as they can to come up with the best solution for the community.

Here are some facts (I will address only the preschool side, since there is also the after-school side that caters to older children and I don't want to go into too much confusing details here):

- There are currently 56 slots available (meaning, there can be actually be more children, since some are part-timers and use only a partial slot). Children usually stay in the program for an average of 2-3 years, but there is a higher turnaround of children since because of personal preference, relocations, etc. Over the years, the facility has served hundreds of families. It is open to everyone in the community and residents get a lower (subsidized???) price. Non-residents pay a much higher fee.

- Out of the over 56 slots, there are currently only 3 children who are not residents.

- Not sure of the exact income of parents, but currently there is no system whatsoever to distinguish. Seems to me that we none are in the really low-income brackets (which qualify for state funding). Many are in the medium-low to medium-upper levels of income. We all pay the same rate (except for non-residents who pay much higher rates), and no one gets any discounts (which is something that most private daycares give, for example, discount for siblings). I agree that there should be some mechanism to provide discounts, based on family situation and need. For example, siblings in the program, single parents, one-income families, etc. Many of us in the program are in one of those situations.

- The current fees are right in the middle, compared to others. But, if you check other factors such as what we get for those fees, you will see that for the same money other private programs sometimes offer more (not all).

- You are right that the fees are very high and this is because there are inefficiencies in the program right now! Most of those inefficiencies are an "easy fix" and by next year MCC should be able to come close to breaking even. By implementing more of our solutions (and I am sorry, but I will not outline here all of our solutions - hopefully it is something that can be done by a reporter at some point!), more families in the community will be able to use the facility and it also has a chance of making a profit - this profit can go right back into the community instead of to a private persons hands!

- Personally, I agree with you that EVERY child in the city should have a subsidy. I think it benefits the community. But if the city as a whole decides for some reason that childcare is not something that they choose to invest in (which I personally think is a shame), than I don't think that MCC should recieve that "priviledge" as well. Our goal is not to claim that we deserve subsidies - our goal is to minimize the subsidies that were created by inefficiencies and create a business plan for a profitable center that would accomodate even more residents! And the profits would then go back into the community. It's possible to do that, and it can be done within the city. "Privatization" is not the only way! Private businesses benefit only their owners. City "businesses" share their revenues with everyone.We believe that everyone should profit from MCC.

- I agree that subsidies should be distributed according to a "needs" basis.

- Don't worry about tonight: like you, also many others can't attend. It's especially hard for those with small children, as all parents at MCC are. So, actually, our "voices" are hardly the ones that are usually heard in similar discussions. It's usually the voices that call for "privatization" that are so loud and strong.

Thanks for sharing your perspective on this issue!


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Posted by Just Curious
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on May 21, 2009 at 11:00 am

In the past, I used the Burgess After-school Program and was quite happy with it; never used the childcare for younger children.

Clearly more stable staff (the likely result of lower turnover with city operation than a private provider) is beneficial to the program. Is it possible for the users were to pay the fully-loaded cost of the operation (cost that includes all employee benefits cost and reasonable facility rent upkeep and overhead costs, rather than just staff hourly pay and a simple facility-rental charge)? Or would this make it prohibitive?

If this would be cost-prohibitive, perhaps a class of employees with lower benefits cost could be created (i.e. with only catastrophic medical coverage, and no/minimal retirement benefits), likely equivalent to what a private childcare provider would offer their employees.

If the users were to cover the full cost of the program, would people still object to Menlo Park operating the MCC?

A rhetorical question: Why is it considered "better" to outsource city programs? Shouldn't capable people be able to operate a "service", like a "business", from within the city offices as efficiently as an outside company does, particularly if the outside competition is a for-profit operation?

In the end, what this may boil down to is the ability of parents to pay the fully-loaded cost of the childcare operation. Perhaps that is not possible. If not, THEN we would need to debate whether a majority of the community feels the benefit is great enough that it is willing to pay the cost to subsidize the minority of the community that uses the childcare services.

If it is subsidized, then you open the whole can of worms of means-testing to determine whether a given individual is deserving (in need) of receiving the subsidy or must pay the full cost. That would be a mess, I think.

I guess what's needed are complete cost numbers. To have an argument before you have those numbers is not wise.


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Posted by MCC Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 22, 2009 at 12:17 pm

I agree with most of the analysis that "Just Curious" made above. I want to add a few points:

1. I don't think that the question is only if parents are "able" to pay. Probably some can and some can't (and probably if parents were to be expected to pay full costs, some would be able to afford it and some would be forced out). But this only one angle to view this issue from. Even if people COULD afford it, the main question is WOULD they? Probably the people who are already in the program would do their best to keep their children there until they graduate, including paying as much as needed, since in a way the parents that are already in the program are in a "hostage" situation, where they really have very few alternatives (I am not talking about price, but about availability). And most parents, having to make the choice between paying a little "extra" and pulling their child out of a place where they are already comfortable, would make the choice to stretch their financials just to leave their child in the program.

But the real question is the viability of MCC in the long run, if parents were to pay the full costs. I argue that it is not logical from a "business" perspective to increase the fees much more than they already are. When you sell a product or provide a service, you usually try to price it in the range of what you think people will pay for it. If it's overpriced, than people will not buy it and the "business" will eventually fail. People who can afford "Mercedes" don't mind paying extra, but they expect a luxury in return. For people who have the money, there are places that offer that luxury that money can buy. I can't say the same about MCC. It does have a huge added value in the fact that teachers are stable, and for many this is the main reason why we LOVE MCC. But if you look at all the other "objective" quality indicators, MCC doesn't have any of them: they are not NAEYC accredited, the ratios are quite high, they don't offer hot lunches, etc., The facility is quite basic - more than that, its layout actually creates a lot of difficulties to run the place efficiently (whoever approved the renovation of that building made a huge mistake).

2. Another value, besides the fact that it was reasonably priced to match the service level, is the fact that MCC provides services to the community that very few private places offer, mainly because those services are not financially viable. For example, Infant and Toddler care are more difficult to find because it is the most costly to sustain. What happens is that it is usually the services that are the least financially viable that are the most needed in a community. And usually the greatest gap in services that the private sector can offer is right there. This is exactly the place where the public sector should come in, to help meet that need that is not met in the private sector.

3. Taking everything down to our practical situation, there needs to be someone who would be able to do the followings:

- Maintain all services (including some form of flexibility in hours, and keeping the toddlers program. Unfortunately there is no infant care at MCC - also something that might have happened if a new facility was built, as voters approved when they passed measure T) and even provide additional ones to better serve various additional needs in the community.

- Keep the price level reasonable to keep it affordable for the middle-income families who are not looking for a luxury car, but just a reliable car that they can actually afford and trust.

- Keep staff turnover low by paying them what they deserve for providing such a difficult and much-needed service.

My last argument would be that all the above will not be possible unless there is some kind of subsidy from the city (either subsidies to maintain specific services or subsidies in the form of free rent, or a combination).


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Posted by Wishing for a solution
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 22, 2009 at 12:35 pm

I appreciate the comments from MCC and Curious. My only contention is the issue that "private" businesses only serve the owners. Any private business owner that only serves themselves will fail. We could also argue that unions only serve their employees and not the community. This is the elephant in the room so to speak since privatization would decrease union membership. Everyone deserves living wages, but we must recognize comparable wages for positions based on experience, education, etc.

Private businesses risk their own capital and often receive few benefits or long-term guarantees. We have to respect both the goals, commitments, investment in education, and risks that everyone makes. Many private businesses as well as government employees give back to the community and benefit everyone.
-Now wishing for some open-mindedness


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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 22, 2009 at 3:46 pm

There are many services & improvements which could benefit the entire Menlo Park community. Why do people want to subsidize the childcare for a limited number of children? What makes the parents who receive that benefit more worthy of help than any of the other middle class residents who pay for their own child care? If I am required to subsidize childcare for residents, I'd like to help select the lucky beneficiaries of this gift from the rest of us. We could have interviews & auditions & the whole town could vote to select the winners. The child care program must pay for itself.

Please explain to me how it helps our town to entice new residents with subsidized "affordable" housing & subsidized child care? I don't see any benefit for the rest of us. I'm tired of subsidizing people who do not live within their means & expect others to make up the difference between dream & reality.


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Posted by MCC Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 23, 2009 at 10:29 am

By the way, MCC is not the only childcare that is subsidized in MP. The Co-Op in Nealon Park is also subsidized in the form of free rent (or, actually there is a symbolic fee of $1).


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