Farewell, Sunshine Acres.
The preschool, which since 2007 has been a part of TFI Community Child Care Inc., will close at the end of February after more than 40 years as a fixture of sorts in Lawrence. Another childhood education facility, Imagine Drop-In Child Care, operated by Trinity In-Home Care of Lawrence, will close at the end of March after three years of serving local families.
Sunshine Acres Montessori School opened in 1970 in the garage of Susan Mozkowski Kean and Gene Kean, both well-known community members who worked diligently to nurture and promote the facility. They, and the school, became a part of the fabric of Lawrence.
Times obviously change. In 2007, the school was acquired by TFI CCC, which has its roots in Junction City, although its first center there closed in 2009. A representative of the not-for-profit organization said the shuttering of the Lawrence operation can be blamed on a number of factors, including expansion of all-day kindergarten in the Lawrence school district, on the recession generally, and on the loss of revenue from the Kansas Children’s Initiative Fund.
State budget cutbacks also are cited as one reason for the closing of the Imagine facility.
As background, the Children’s Initiative Fund, created in 1999 with revenue the state receives from a settlement of lawsuits against the tobacco industry, distributed those proceeds for a number of purposes including early childhood education programs. Gov. Sam Brownback proposes to cut $9.2 million from that program and use it instead to finance his Kansas Reads to Succeed venture, aimed at improving the reading skills of elementary school children.
There’s only so much money to go around. Whether it’s a case of unintended consequences or a conscious decision that one program and one use of money is preferable to another, two facilities that have served Lawrence families soon will be closing their doors at least partially because of the decision in Topeka to shift the way available dollars are used.
Change is inevitable. Time is the devourer of all things, it is said. Nothing lasts forever. But in these situations, it seems Topeka gave matters a nudge that may not have been warranted.
The lesson, apparently: Don’t depend on the state. Farewell, Sunshine Acres.