Two facilities that provide daycare and early childhood education services in Lawrence will soon close due to financial constraints brought on, in part, by recent state budget cuts.
Sunshine Acres Montessori School, 2141 Maple Ln., which provides early childhood education to children ages 1 to 8, will close at the end of February after more than 40 years in operation, officials said.
Meanwhile, Imagine Drop-In Child Care, 536 Fireside Ct., which provides flexible-schedule daycare for about a dozen families in Lawrence, will close on March 29.
Peg Martin, a spokeswoman for Community Child Care Centers in Kansas, which operates Sunshine Acres, said the recession and recent expansion of all-day kindergarten in public schools were two factors cutting into the school's enrollment. She said the school is licensed to hold 124 children but currently enrolls only 80.
But she also said the loss of about $42,400 a year in funding from the Kansas Children's Initiative Fund contributed to the school's financial problems. That money flowed to the school through the Success by Six Coalition of Douglas County.
"Sunshine received notice that its grant for pre-K classrooms would not be renewed and would be cut out of the Children's Initiative Fund," Martin said.
The Children's Initiative Fund was established in 1999 and receives funding from the state's share of payments from the settlement of a lawsuit against the tobacco industry. That fund, in turn, distributes block grants to local agencies for a variety of purposes, including early childhood education programs.
For the upcoming fiscal year, however, Gov. Sam Brownback is proposing to cut $9.2 million from that program in order to fund the Kansas Reads to Succeed program, which is aimed at improving reading skills for early elementary students. That, in turn, has resulted in less funding for local early childhood education, officials have said.
At Imagine Drop-in Child Care, officials said state budget cutbacks were also part of the reason for its planned closing.
Scott Criqui, interim director of Trinity In-Home Care of Lawrence, which operates Imagine, said it faced cuts in funding from the Department of Children and Families, formerly Social and Rehabilitation Services, as well as the United Way.
But the bigger issue, he said, is that after three years, the program had not been able to become self-sufficient.
"The idea was for it to be profitable within three or four years, and it just wasn't moving that quickly," Criqui said.
"Our hope, though, is that we will be able to find another community partner to take over the program," he said. "We're still in talks with a variety of different non-profits to keep the mission and the program of Imagine alive, because it's obviously met a need in the community."