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Archive for Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Editorial: Child care losses

January 29, 2013

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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.

Ouch!

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.

Comments

OhHai 1 year, 11 months ago

Again, thanks for only going by what you've been told by TFI. Well rounded. Yes change is inevitable, and TFI cherishes working with children so much, but why can't they wait three months until the end of the school year so families (and teachers) wouldn't be left in a lurch? I was at a parents meeting on Tuesday, and was notified of the closure on Wednesday. Say what you will, but that's not right, and I don't care how no-frill-boo-state-funding you are. In your heart of hearts, you know it's not right.

Yes, change is inevitable. But maybe the anger from families is because the only explanation that we got was from what we read in the paper. TFI never directly told us why. They refused to meet with us, or take phone calls, they removed their comments section on their facebook page, shut down their Twitter account, and then deleted the Sunshine Acres facebook page altogether. All we got was a letter that stated a "corporate decision" as the reason for closing. When they started to get a little heat, they blamed it on the recession. Then suddenly the story changed to a drop in enrollment, then it changed again to the loss of the United Way grant. Actually it seems that they also lost their fostering grant, which leads one to wonder why that was.

In the months leading up to the closure, TFI tried to turn Sunshine Acres into a money maker. They bullied parents and raised their tuition prices with no notice. The only time TFI communicated with the families was when it was about money, usually of the ‘give us more’ kind. While I know that many people will say that if a business isn't making money, then it should be closed. What if that business is a non-profit?

At the end of the day, TFI can do what they want. However, I question the motives of a company that claim to put families first and then pulls a move like this. Teachers without jobs, kids with nowhere to go (don't believe me? ask any parent about the mile long waiting lists at all over town), and the effect that has on families that depend on daycare to hold jobs. Not to mention that TFI is already picking the school clean when students are still in attendance.

TFI has successively marketed their story to the media. No one has any interest in the families and our story, content to write us off a group of whiny parents. That is not the case. We just made the mistake of being involved in our school and those that care for our children nine hours a day. We care that a school that has been around over 40 years is being dismissed by the community with the wave of a hand (I shudder to think of the outrage if this were Free State Brewery). The teachers at Sunshine Acres are the most amazing individuals and have helped mold my children into smart, well rounded individuals. Now the building is relieved of duty, and will house the offices of TFI. Gone will be the laughter and love that filled the hallways, but that's OK. It’s just change.

Staci Dark Simpson 1 year, 11 months ago

I agree, TFI has interests in the building. They could have at least had the courage to meet with parents instead of running scared and refusing to confront the issue. I would also be interested in hearing why they lost their foster grant, besides the recession, government cuts, blah, blah, blah. I also agree that if this was Free State Brewery, there would be public outrage. Where is the public outrage at this? Do people not understand the significance of this? That school had been there over 40 years! How could others keep it going, but not TFI, a multimillion dollar corporation? Thats why this whole deal stinks of fishiness. I think TFI just wanted the building for their offices. Most of the classrooms were nearly full. One wasn't, and it was their personal choice because they did not want to hire another teacher. There is more to this than TFI is telling us. I also don't understand why they couldn't wait until the school year ended, giving families more time to find alternate care in a market already full of waiting lists. It wouldn't have killed them to wait until semester's end. But then when all you care about is money I suppose every penny counts. TFI, hope your love of money and greediness turns around to bite you in the behind one day.

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