Archive for Thursday, January 24, 2013

Two child care facilities to close in Lawrence

January 24, 2013


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."


Bob Forer 5 years ago

Well, if anyone is keeping score, looks like Brownback has just cost Kansas one business. So the first new business he can prove was created by his tax cuts will pull him out of the hole and back to zero.

Sam Brownback--less than zero

Katara 5 years ago

Potentially even more jobs lost if parents cannot find other daycare to cover for the loss of these 2 places.

OhHai 5 years ago

Oh no, no, no. This isn't half the story. As SSA parents, we were given 30 days notice, in the middle of the school year mind you, that they were closing. They gave the parent's no explanation and this article is as close to a reason that anyone has gotten, but not directly from TFI. There were close to 100 families there and TFI made over 7 million dollars last year. They closed down a school that has been around for 40 years with no warning to the families, and now there is no place for us all to go. I REALLY wished the LJW would have spoken to someone else besides these guys. T

vuduchyld 5 years ago

Not sure about your math, there. If they "made" more than 7 million last year, and, if, as you say, there were close to 100 families there....well, that means they had to make $70,000 per FAMILY, or $5833 per month. That's an awful lot of profit. I can't even imagine their REVENUE was that high, much less the profit from that.

Caroline Bennett 5 years ago

TFI owns multiple schools in addition to SSA.

OhHai 5 years ago

They had other schools besides SSA.

smalltownchick 5 years ago

Do you know what else TFI does?! Apparently not...They are also a licensed child placing agency which means they sponsor licensed foster families. It is a wonderful agency and they only have 3 schools. The other 2 are in other cities, Junction City and Wyandotte. They are doing this to help people, not make a large profit. Their agency just is not in the business of trying to take money from people and make a large profit, they are there to make the communities better, which is much more than I can say about Gov. Brownback and his cronies.

Gedanken 5 years ago

The impact this will have on the community is significant. We have jobs lost. We have young children displaced out of their familiar learning environment. We potentially have parents and their employment that will be impacted depending on whether or not they can find replacement care and schooling by the time the old school closes. This is bad news for the community.

HoosierPride 5 years ago

Something doesn't make sense here. There's no way enrollment was down very much at SSA. And they just raised rates recently.

OhHai 5 years ago

Yep, Like going from charging a dollar for every minute that you were late to FIVE dollars for every minute, plus tuition went up 6% TWO months ago, so it's not like they even had time to figure out if the price increases were working. They closed it because they wanted to save money. Plus they could have waited until May, the end of the school year, so there might be a fighting chance for families to get into other places. The best part is that they won't respond to parents phone calls or questions.

roosmom 5 years ago

Staff at SAMS were asked not to speak to the media and will be given 24 hours notice if enrollment drops before 2/28. Its my understanding they were also told to forget about unemployment which seems to be a scare tactic. It appears both families and staff are being treated poorly. I do want to commend the SAMS staff on site for working hard to help families in this transition even though they are under the stress of being out of work and for those teachers that also have children enrolled out of childcare as well.

Staci Dark Simpson 5 years ago

There is now a facebook page up, Save the Sunshine. We are hoping we can find a different facility to keep this going. It is a shame for company to be in business doing well, a corporation comes in and buys it, can't make it profitable, and just shuts it down like it is nothing. This isn't the last of Sunshine Acres. The name may change, but the backbone will be the same staff and families.

Reuben Turner 5 years ago

well i be... seems to me that planned parenting will have to be thought of more often now.

kernal 5 years ago

What makes you think it hasn't already been?

somebodynew 5 years ago

And depending on how you interpret it - Class.

countrystrong 5 years ago

SA was close to closing it's doors in 2007, so CCC gave it life for 6 more years. CCC pumped in $ on many capital improvements and new programing. The recession hit in 2008, people lost jobs and were not using child care. The school districts too had to find new revenue, so all day Ks were started. All effecting enrollment.. SA operated in the red for years. The loss of supplement grant funding made it even worse. Everyone is sad.

Carol Bowen 5 years ago

"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."

Did everyone miss that taxpayers are picking up the tab for "all day kindergarten"? Not only were the public schools competing with private day care, now taxpayers are paying for the daycare. I wondered at the time how all day kindergarten was approved so easily. If the schools are worried about funding programs, why would they add another?

chootspa 5 years ago

Lawrence started with all day kindergarten about six years ago in at-risk schools in an effort to boost third grade reading scores. The district expanded all day kindergarten to all schools last year as part of Brownback's demands that Lawrence spend down their reserves.

Staci Dark Simpson 5 years ago

Consumer1-FYI Montessori is more than that. I was a teacher at SSA for almost 5 years. I can tell you it is more than feeling fabric. We have more children reading before kindergarten than any traditional preschool I ever taught at. We have also had children doing multiplication before kindergarten which is virtually unheard of. But most important we teach them social skills to be good human beings, which is sincerely lacking in our world these days. Children are allowed to work at their own levels. There is no ceiling to what they can learn. And the only granola I am sporting is what is in my yogurt in the morning. I also don't know how we were in the red. We worked very hard to conserve energy, spent lots of our own money on classroom items, repaired a lot of materials on our own, and became very resourceful. As a teacher, I felt we were operating on bare bones. My kids would have done without alot if I hadn't purchased it on my own.

GMom05 5 years ago

"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." And from Hear_Me "Not only were the public schools competing with private day care, now taxpayers are paying for the daycare."

The public schools will be doing it again. The new bond issue the district is putting forth for April, includes THREE new pre-K classrooms at Kennedy. That's about 60 more spots that private preschools will have to compete for. Look for another small business to close. What will happen when the state cuts funding to the district again and they can no longer afford to run pre-K and all day kindergarten in this district? More centers will have closed and then what will families do? Where will they go? Ironically, we'll all still be paying taxes on those classrooms they can no longer afford to run, until 2035.

chootspa 5 years ago

Those private preschools weren't competing for those spots, unless we were tax funding them already. The spots at Kennedy go to disadvantaged/disabled kids.

GMom05 5 years ago

And what makes you think that disadvantaged/disabled kids don't attend private preschools? How do you figure?

chootspa 5 years ago

Are you saying that current preschools are funded by the tuition of people on or around the poverty level without any taxpayer support?

Or that we have private preschools in Lawrence that specialize in disability services without taxpayer support? I know that KU has lab schools for disabilities, but I don't know of any local private preschool with licensed therapists on staff that weren't paid for by the school district. Can you name one? Now, I'm curious.

Yes, kids should be in a diverse environment. Yes, I think there's room for different approaches for preschool, and I'm actually a huge believer in Montessori. There's some evidence behind it. However, those slots at Kennedy didn't get created to kill private preschools. They're not taking away slots that weren't already taxpayer funded.

GMom05 5 years ago

I'm not sure why you're making a distinction about tax-payer funded students. What I'm saying is just like Sunshine Acres there are other centers in town that have enrolled students that are 'at-risk/disadvantaged/poverty level.' Yes, they receive part of the tuition from the families and part from state subsidies. What I am saying is where ever the tuition comes from, these centers rely on a certain number of students to stay open. The school district will always be 'free' to the students and their family, and the clear choice over a center that has to charge something to stay open, so people will enroll there. The school district will not shut down if they don't enlarge the Kennedy Pre-K program, but very good private centers like Sunshine Acres will. If you look to the future, I still ask what happens when the district can no longer afford to staff these new rooms? Where will the children go when more private centers are closed and the remaining ones are full?

chootspa 5 years ago

Keyword: compete. Those schools aren't competing for those students. They're competing for tax grants. The students would likely never have attended if they didn't have a voucher.

I don't know that Kennedy is necessarily doing a better job of educating the kids by centralizing all of their programs. Maybe they think they can do a better job measuring outcomes that way, or maybe it's an effort to make it more efficient and not have to funnel vouchers through different programs, which all have to be monitored for quality. They certainly won't close mid semester, like SSA.

Now what happens when all the voucher-supported kids are removed from the private schools and then the taxpayer funding goes away? I would imagine exactly the same thing that would happen if the voucher support for the schools went away without Kennedy being in the picture. The kids with parents who couldn't afford preschool simply wouldn't go, and if there was continued demand for new preschools, they'd be built or expanded to accomodate.

GMom05 5 years ago

Some of the private preschools are non-profit and they may be competing for grant money. Other preschools are not, and are not able to receive any grant money to pay their bills. They rely entirely on student tuition. Vouchers are not something that is used in Lawrence in early childhood programs. So, I'm not sure where you are going with that. If what you mean by "voucher-supported kids," are kids that are in foster care, or kids whose parents receive some sort of subsidy from the Department of Children and Families, then yes Sunshine Acres, Kennedy, and many other centers in town enroll children of all backgrounds. The difference in what would happen if all the state funding dried up and Kennedy was no longer functioning? Well, not only would the children that couldn't afford it have preschool any longer, neither would a large chunk of children who could afford it but couldn't get a spot in remaining centers. And if parents don't have care, they can't go to work, and that dramatically effects the workforce. What do working parents do when the schools like Kennedy close for breaks? They either don't work, or they go to preschool/childcare centers to watch their children so they can go to work. So, what do they do when those places no longer exist? As to building or expanding to accommodate, I can only say that it is apparent you are not a small business owner.

chootspa 5 years ago

You would be "apparently" wrong, but the ad hominem aside, I'm still not seeing how the drying up of funding to public programs would create a sudden drop in capacity for unfunded programs, unless you're also saying that a great deal of the children receiving state funding of some sort are already able to afford it without the subsidies?

Now there are a great deal of debates to be had. I'm a proponent of universal, high quality preschool and affordable childcare options for all who need it. I'm not debating eligibility requirements or trying to pinpoint the exact mechanisms of funding. I certainly don't think drying up funding for preschool is a good thing either for the kids or the economy. But I'm just not seeing the apocalypse you are in a request to build an extra classroom for 60 students, especially when this very article mentions that two preschools are closing right now. They didn't close because Kennedy had some extra slots, and not building the classrooms won't make them reopen.

GMom05 5 years ago

I'm not suggesting they did, nor do I think they would be reopened. I'm saying additional preschools will close as a result. Period. I'm not saying an apocalyptic event, just more casualties, another nail in the coffin, if you will, for more private preschools.

lunacydetector 5 years ago

the private daycares were required to include kindergarten, then the school district got back into the kindergarten game, now these daycares are closing.

JackMcKee 5 years ago

Brownback is really growing the economy. How many jobs did we just lose?

Staci Dark Simpson 5 years ago

Yes the public schools adding kindergarten killed Sunshine Acres private kindergarten program. And Sunshine did have a huge population of "at risk" children. I just can't believe an institution that had been in place over 40 years is shutting down over a few "off" years. The enrollment is also not as low as TFI reported it. I believe they want the buildings for their foster care programs and do not give a hoot about shutting down schools and putting families and teachers out. Its strictly business to them.

Elizabeth Halsey 5 years ago

Please do your homework. My child is not disadvantaged or disabled because he had a single parent home that qualified him to attend - and I even worked for the district at the time. There are many wonderful children from all backgrounds in most preschools. Having them all disadvantaged, all disabled or all privileged serves no purpose. A diverse group helps teach acceptance of all.

OhHai 5 years ago

Yes, the parents of SSA are upset about the school closing. But it would have been much easier to handle had TFI handled the situation with even the smallest amount of compassion. All we got was" it was a corporate decision. " So yeah, we're pissed because they could have had the decency to wait four months so the school year would be over and there might be a way to find other care. You've got 90 some families scrabbling for places to put their kids. The body isn't even cold and their in there inventorying and monitoring class size to see if it shrinks before they close. This is the same company that fosters and adopts children. I wonder why they lost that foster grant? The wouldn't even talk to the parents or return calls - nothing. All we got was the middle finger and "thanks for the money."

Nonprofit_Funds_Management 5 years ago

This now makes four centers which have experienced heavy cuts from Success by Six funds this year - even they though SbS received the largest single increase in funding from United Way. If these four centers all received cuts this year, where is the money going?

Ron Holzwarth 5 years ago

Life makes no sense to me. I've done months and years of childcare, usually for 3 and 4 year olds, and was always paid virtually nothing for it, but I didn't mind because it was for my nieces or the children of friends. I always enjoyed doing it.

But I can't do that today, because I'm not qualified to do so. I certainly have the time to do it. What happened? Don't people take care of their family's and friend's children anymore?

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