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June 16, 2004

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Publication Date: Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Strong reaction to child care opinion Strong reaction to child care opinion (June 16, 2004)

Calculation of cost per child way out of line


The recent guest opinion by Mary Gilles contained such obvious inaccuracies with respect to subsidizing the Menlo Park child care programs that I feel compelled to respond.

Couched in terms of a reasoned statistical analysis, the assertion was made that families with children in these programs are subsidized to the tune of up to $33,000 per child. Ms. Gilles' conclusion is completely misleading because it leaves out the critical fact that this is not a one-year expense and that it does not apply to a static population of children.

Rather, costs for a new center would be amortized over many years and thousands of children. Everyone knows that numbers can be intentionally manipulated to prove a point or, on the other hand, it is also possible that they can be misrepresented out of true ignorance.

As a long-time proponent of Menlo Park's children's programs, and a parent of two children who have benefited tremendously from the superb pre-school program at MCC, I have been continually dismayed by the lack of support and ever-changing positions of the City Council majority.

Many dedicated residents have invested significant time and effort with the false hope that they could make a difference with the City Council. Instead, they have consistently seen their efforts dismissed in a string of 3-2 votes by the block of Lee Duboc, Mickie Winkler, and Nicholas Jellins.

I would prefer that the majority simply come clean and state their lack of interest in financially supporting quality child care so we could all know where they stand in order to move on. As child care proponents, we have been completely consistent in our position and presentation of the facts. We simply request the same of the council majority and their surrogates.

Malcolm McGinnis
Oakdell Drive, Menlo Park

Flawed logic, factual errors in child care opinion


The recent guest opinion by Mary Gilles lauding the Menlo Park City Council decision to build a child care center at the old police station was filled with flawed logic, factual errors and hyperbole.

Menlo Park has missed an opportunity to do something special for the community. The fact that parents advocating a new child care center are so committed to the cause is a testament to the merits of the concept rather than being self-interested.

Given the time to build such a facility and the window of time that such a facility meets a family's needs, none, or very few, of the parents supporting a new center would benefit from such a facility. The mathematical logic employed in the editorial was amusing and distorting. Were Ms. Gilles' numbers or logic true, I could understand her position. However, her facts are wildly inaccurate.

Based on city budget information for last year, the Menlo Children's Center and the Burgess Afterschool Programs were collectively at 106 percent cost recovery. Given recent fee increases I expect the recovery figures to be larger.

A family with one child in full-time care at the preschool pays between $11,196 and $14,256 per year. My favorite distortion however, was the computation of cost per child of a new center at $33,333 per child. I guess that works if you build a new center every year rather than one with a 25-year useful life and provide services for fewer than the full number of potential beneficiaries.

I hope, but am not convinced, that the analytical rigor employed by Mayor Lee Duboc and council members Mickie Winkler and Nicholas Jellins was far greater.

Jay Hansen
Menlo Park

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