State-subsidized preschool operates at deficit

Emma Chavez, 5, plays with all the magnetic letters in the outside play area in 2012 during the preschool class at Go Kids.

Hollister School District trustees heard a brief report last week on the status of a state-subsidized preschool program, which has suffered from declining enrollment and deficits.
The program is about $105,000 in deficit over about five years and about $3,500 in deficit for this school year, explained Kathy Cunnane, the district’s director of fiscal services.
“What we want to do is bring it to you, so you’re aware that we’re operating at a deficit,” Superintendent Gary McIntire told trustees at the Feb. 23 board meeting.
The state-subsidized preschool programs serve students, ages 3 to 5, from low-income families. The programs are meant to give children from families that can’t afford private preschool a fair start. To qualify, one- to two-person families must make a yearly income of $39,396 or less. Increased yearly incomes are allotted for each additional family member.
McIntire credited Kim O’Connor, the district’s coordinator of state preschools, with increasing the number of students in the program but added he didn’t think the district was done discussing preschool. The superintendent said he wanted trustees to be aware that the program was running at a deficit but added there was a second variable to keep in mind: the cost to students of not providing the program, he said.
In December, local administrators credited openings in state-subsidized preschool programs across California—designed for children from low-income families—with a lack of affordable housing, the high cost of living in California, the state’s Great Recession, and a relatively new transitional kindergarten program that can serve older preschool aged children for more hours.
During the meeting last week, staff commended O’Connor for her efforts to increase enrollment. At the time of that meeting, the district’s program for this fall had 85 students, O’Connor said. There are 11 vacancies, compared with 41 earlier, she explained. To fill the program, the district opened the classes to include 3-year-olds along with nine out-of-district students, O’Connor said.
O’Connor met with CalWORKs, the San Benito County Office of Education, Go Kids, First 5, the Free Lance, and other community agencies to increase enrollment, she explained. She also posted about the program at the Gavilan Briggs Building and on social media, she said.

Leave your comments