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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.
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posted Wednesday, May 13, 2009, 12:00 AM
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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.
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.
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!