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Town Square

Parents to meet over lack of onsite, after-school child care in Menlo Park school district

Original post made by Richard Hine on Feb 19, 2007

Katherine Bailey (kjscafe@earthlink.net) e-mailed this message to the Almanac on Feb. 17, 2007:
I wanted to let your newspaper know that there are a growing number of parents who are networking to express their concern related to the lack of after-school childcare options available to Menlo Park school district families. As a result there is a meeting scheduled -- see below for details.
Dear working parents:
The mayor of Menlo Park (Kelly Ferguson), Councilman John Boyle and community services director (Barbara Santos George) have agreed at the request of numerous concerned parents to host a meeting to discuss the lack of after school care options within the City of Menlo Park (particularly for kindergarten age children).
Though numbers seems to vary slightly depending on who you ask, reportedly there are approximately 330 kindergartners enrolled in the district currently (06'-07'). Enrollment is expected to increase next year. There were six openings available for Sept 07-08' school year in the Burgess After School Center. Half of those six spaces were taken by parents forced to literally sleep out over night to secure a space for their children. There were no spaces available for first graders.
While Palo Alto serves approximately 22% of the kindergarten families, offering onsite after school care at ALL of it's elementary schools, Menlo Park serves only 7% of it's families and offers NO onsite options. By last poll, approximately 80% of Menlo Park families were working parents.
If you feel, as we do, that this is unacceptable in a city so rich with resources and ingenuity we hope you will join us in expressing your opinions and in requesting an immediate remedy.
The meeting will be held Monday, February 26, 2007 at 6 p.m. at 701 Laurel -- The Fireside Room in the Recreation Center Menlo Park.
If you cannot make the meeting please consider contacting the Superintendents' office at 650 321 7140 or sending an email to the MP City council at: CITY.COUNCIL@menlopark.org, and/or the Mayor of the Town of Atherton at: acarlson@ci.atherton.ca.us

See related story

Comments

Posted by Greed Conquers All, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 20, 2007 at 8:56 pm

Sounds like a few greedy parents believe that the city should solve their childcare problems, or perhaps they think the city (ie, the taxpayers) should be subsidizing their childcare. I hope that the mayor and other residents realize that these greedy people represent only a small minority of parents, as most of us are willing to find and pay for our own childcare.


Comparing Menlo Park to Palo Alto is ludicrous. Palo Alto Community Child Care (PACCC) is a nonprofit organization but it is not run by the city or funded by taxpayers. Moreover, many school districts, not just Palo Alto's, offer onsite after-school care. The Menlo Park City School District has repeatedly said that it does not have the space. However, MPCSD is only one of three elementary school districts in Menlo Park and at least one of the other ones does offer onsite care. Also note that about 20-25% of MPCSD students do not live in Menlo Park. Perhaps these parents should complain to the district and not the city?


Posted by Setting The Record Straight, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 20, 2007 at 9:34 pm

As Ronald Reagan was famous for saying, "There you go again." West Menlo childcare is NOT subsized, period. Parents pay a market rate for that service, covering its costs.

If you want to argue about who should provide such service - the school district or the city - fine, but don't go down the false "subsidy" path that Winkler/Duboc tried to pull.


Posted by Econ 101, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 20, 2007 at 11:02 pm

This may be painful for some of you to hear, but even if parents pay market rates for childcare at Burgess, the city is still subsidizing the program. The city's accounting does not take into account the fact that the taxpayers just spent $3 million+ on a new building for the childcare facility, or the opportunity cost of using public land to run the program. And let's not even talk about whether or not the fees cover the direct costs of the program, as our city finance department still doesn't seem to be able to get the right numbers on that one.

In point of fact, I have seen an email from one of the parents who organized this meeting, and her main argument is that she does not want to pay fair market costs for childcare. So evidently she, at least, believes the city is going to subsidize the cost.

Wanting to put your children in the program at Burgess doesn't make you a bad parent. But why kid yourself about the economic realities?

There are private individuals who run afterschool programs in their homes--the free market solution!--and many parents prefer those programs to the city's programs. If the city wants to help parents, then it should simplify the procedure for getting a childcare use permit.


Posted by Setting The Record Straight, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 21, 2007 at 10:01 am

OK, Econ 101 (or should I say Libertarianism 101), you want to say that using a public building or public land represents a "subsidy," then we're heavily subsidizing a whole bunch of "special interests" in MP based on their use of public buildings/land, including:
-- Swimmers (the new pool complex, which BTW, cost a lot more than renovating the old police building that houses childcare)
-- Seniors (the Senior Center)
-- Gymnasts (the soon-to-be-renovated gym)
-- Basketball/Volleyball players (again, the soon-to-be-renovated gym)
-- Baseball/Soccer players (the valuble public park land that they play on - imagine how much the city could get if it sold off that land!)
-- Readers/Thinkers (why the public library and the valuble land that it sits on!)
-- Nature (Bayfront Park is still just sitting there, no golf course, no strip mall, no condos - oh, boo hoo hoo!)

No Econ 101, such libertarian arguments didn't wash with the voters last November (witness Winkler/Duboc's pathetic finish) and they won't wash now!



Posted by Humanist, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 21, 2007 at 10:57 am

Econ 101's argument also wouldn't wash with voters who passed the bond measure, Measure T, several years ago. Top on the list of proposed projects -- many believe "promised" projects -- was a brand new child care center that would have been around twice the cost of the one ultimately built.

Talking about city subsidies and "greedy parents" who want the government to help with providing child care avoids fundamental questions all members of a society must ask: What is the purpose of government? How do we want our government to support us in our quest to be a good, cohesive society? How much are we willing to pay for the level of support that is needed? I think Menlo Park voters indicated their answers to those questions in supporting Measure T and in ridding the council in November of members bent on privatizing city services.


Posted by Pseudonyms Are Fun, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 21, 2007 at 11:34 am

The Mayor advocated big time for the taj mahal childcare center at Burgess no matter what the cost and denounced any and all task forces that tried to find alternative solutions.

Didn't the parks committee and many others spend long hours trying to find equitable solutions only a year ago or so?

Boyle spent the better part of his campaign yielding to his special interests pushing to outsource childcare regardless of the facts gathered from fair and open task forces.

Now the two of them are hosting a child care forum? Where is the parks and rec committee?

Blatant politics if I have ever seen it.


Posted by Econ 101, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 21, 2007 at 3:28 pm

Sorry to disappoint you, Setting, but I'm not a libertarian. And I'll turn in my Stanford MBA if I'm wrong about generally accepted accounting principles vis a vis cost/revenue allocations in a situation like this. Do we want our city to operate in a fiscally responsible manner or should we be giving away services to whichever group is crying the loudest today?

One problem with the city subsidizing childcare is that city childcare competes directly with private childcare. Whereas it is highly unlikely that anyone in the private sector is going to offer a free lending library or free (or very low cost) open play space. Our swimming pool, by the way, has been privatized, so that's probably not an example you want to use.

Measure T was seriously flawed in that it promised too many goodies to too many people. Years later we are still haggling over priorities that should have been addressed before the measure ever hit the ballot. So typical of our city to be negligent. Similarly, the city got into the childcare business originally because a group of parents was whining about their facility closing. No analysis was done. No alternatives were considered. Let's not make that kind of mistake again.


Posted by Setting The Record Straight, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 22, 2007 at 4:05 pm

There you go again with that word "subsidy" - how many times does this have to be said: THE BURGESS CHILDCARE PROGRAM IS NOT BEING SUBSIDIZED!

Parents tuition cover the direct costs of the program - that is a KNOWN, UNDENIABLE FACT.

And the only other city program that covers its direct costs with fees is the gymnastics program. So if you're REALLY that concerned about fiscal responsibility, as you say you are, you should be going after those other programs - seniors, community classes, adult sports, kids sports, etc. - not childcare.

And if you're really that upset with Measure T spending, you should be campaigning to not use any more of those funds for anything.

But instead you're just targeting childcare because you just don't happen to like that the city offers it.

And by the way, if your flaunting of having a "Stanford MBA" is supposed to impress me, forget it - after all, our President graduated from Yale and has a Harvard MBA as well and look where we are now!


Posted by a little more info for you to consider, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Feb 22, 2007 at 8:32 pm

For the record, the purpose of the meeting is to look for childcare solutions. No one has suggested that the solutions need to be subsidized by the City. We do expect a representative to attend from the City and the School District as well as several other representatives from private childcare companies and non-profits. However , we need the cooperation of many different public entities -- the City and the School Board -- even to enroll the participation of private companies who would operate for-profit. This is a collaborative effort. Privately operated after school centers are more affordable and consequently accessible than nanny care which is currently the only other alternative for working parents whose children attend Laurel or Oak Knoll. Currently there is only one MP after school care center in operation providing transportation from school and it has a wait list of 25. This is a great opportunity for entrepeneurship! We are all just looking for the best way to fill a need.


Posted by Concerned Parent, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 22, 2007 at 8:49 pm

Nothing in the original post indicates parents are asking to "subsidize" (if that is what you want to call it) the childcare cost. The issue is that there is NO childcare options for working parents in Menlo Park City School District. School districts in all surrounding areas have on site after school care. Parents are willing to pay market price for a high-quality care. If you didn't get one of the 6 spots at the Burgess Childcare facility, or cannot find a in-home care provider (by the way, contrary to what Econ 101 says, there is only one in-home program that provides after school care and they have a huge waitlist) what would working parents to do? You are lucky if you can find a babysitter who is willing to work from 12 - 6 5 days a week for $20/hr. That's more than $2,000 for after school care. Compare that to PACCC program or CCLC program that costs $650 per month. And they provide activities to keep the kids engaged. Affordable childcare, for any age, is one of the big issues that faces this society today.


Posted by A. Martin, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 23, 2007 at 7:20 am

It is really sad when citizens of Menlo Park many of which obviously have too much time on their hand proceed to comment on issues they no nothing about. The working parents of Menlo Park are not asking for subsidized child care. We are asking for a safe location allocated on our elementary schools or near by where 5 yaer old children of working parents can go after 12:15 pm.

We are not asking the city to solve this alone. We are getting together to finally find a solution. I am proud of our Mayor for being in touch with the realities of this town and bringing all parties together to jointly solve this problem.

The parents have identified an excellent private after school care program which serves the public schools of Las Lomitas, Palo Alto and Los Altos and we are happy to pay the tutition. But the facility needs to be at the school or nearby as most of us can not pick up our children at 12:15pm to take them to a after daycare. I suggest if you don't understand an issue, at least become informed before jumping to provide useless comments. It just shows how uninformed and out of touch with reality some of the residents are.


Posted by ElectionWatcher, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 23, 2007 at 9:33 am

A. Martin:

The basic problem that you have is that - for whatever underlying reason - whenever you say "childcare" in Menlo Park, it evokes an irrational response from a certain segment of the population here that seems to want to stamp it out like a deadly disease. It is fascinating - but at the same time quite sad - to watch. Good luck in your efforts.


Posted by MPworkingMom, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 23, 2007 at 11:55 am

It's sad that some members of our community can't acknowlege that there is any benefit to considering the needs of families with children, even in terms of dollars and cents.

Even a Stanford MBA ought to be able to figure out that high quality after-school care adds value to Menlo Park. It helps the area attract and retain skilled workers and professionals, helps keep property values high and is an investment in California's future.

I'm beginning to wonder if Econ 101 has a vested interest in keeping competition out of the childcare market.


Posted by Econ 101, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 25, 2007 at 11:46 am

Some of you ideologues are allowing emotion to overcome logic. I'm sure you wouldn't be so rude in person.

If the goal is to provide onsite childcare, a move I have supported for many years, then why meet with Menlo Park council members? The city has no jurisdiction over the school district! Do these parents realize that many people in the school district have privately expressed dissatisfaction with the city council for approving housing that will only contribute to the problems with crowding? And that Ken Ranella cites the overcrowding as the reason for not offering onsite care? There's no room at the schools!

The dollar amounts being bandied about are absurd. Maybe you'll pay $2,000/month per child if you insist on a nanny with a degree in early childhood ed, but most of us pay far less. And private childcare is cheaper than Burgess if you have more than one child, as many of us do.

I'm still mystified why any parent would expect the city to "fix" this problem? In fact, your very accusations and epithets reflect your ignorance of local childcare realities. It certainly does not "add value" to Menlo Park to accommodate a bunch of whiners who are too lazy/indigent to find their own care as the rest of us do. What's next? Should the city be making bag lunches for your kids because you're too poor or busy to feed them?


Posted by SettingTheRecordStraight, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 25, 2007 at 7:27 pm

More pretzel logic, followed by rude insults - way to make your point, Econ 101! You've really convinced me!


Posted by Not Rich, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 26, 2007 at 10:34 am

For those of us who actually work for a living, and for whom the property taxes we pay means something, it's be nice to see the 91 million worth of new school scool construction put to use in the afternoons to do something besides "look pretty". For those of who don't have the opportunity to send the nanny in the Suburban to pick up the kiddies having a safe place for our kids to enrich their lives and be with other kids and adults while we WORK FOR A LIVING some options besides "fuggetaboutit" would be nice.


Posted by Costcutters, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 26, 2007 at 11:46 am

But we are all so silly!

Clearly, the obvious answer, according to ECON 101, is to have one's underpaid housekeeper watch the kiddies while she tries to clean the MacMansion's 47 rooms.

It's cheap, and we don't have to be a bother to our government representatives or school officials. Who needs quality childcare when you've got cable tv?


Posted by Desparate Parent, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 26, 2007 at 1:36 pm

Dear Econ101
Give me a list of places that provides afterschool childcare (with reliable transportation from school) and I will pass it along to all the parents I know who are looking for the care (and by the way we, the parents who work and don't work, searched high and low and came out empty handed). We are asking for the city to hear our voice since in the past the school district did not want to get involved. I understand that has changed and they will send a representative to the meeting. We don't really care who solves it - we just need it solved since otherwise our children will have no place to go.


Posted by don'tgetit, a resident of another community
on Feb 27, 2007 at 7:42 am

Now living in another community, I JUST don't get why the MP school district does not look to outside services to provide before and aftercare at all school locations. I have the service now in my community....fabulous! I am offered before and aftercare as well as drop-in and my children skip to their designated room right at the school. Snacks are offered and homework assistance not to mention fun activities.....many times kids just want more time in the playground.
WAKE-UP MENLO PARK SCHOOL DISTRICT AND MOVE INTO THE 21ST CENTURY!


Posted by ElectionWatcher, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 27, 2007 at 11:26 pm

Can we get a summary report on what took place on the 26th from observers/participants (or Rory of the Almanac)? Thanks!


Posted by Rory Brown, Almanac staff writer
on Feb 28, 2007 at 12:23 pm

Rory Brown is a registered user.

Here's a link to a brief story on the Feb. 26 child care meeting, with more to come in the print edition of the Almanac. This story is currently posted on the front page of AlmanacNews.com.

Web Link