Gov. Greg Abbott talks repeatedly about his commitment to pre-kindergarten education – and it was one of the key points of debate in this week’s budget marathon in the Texas House.
San Antonio has adopted full-day pre-K, and other school districts, including Fort Worth, are also headed in that direction.
Universal pre-K can have a downside thought for child care providers and parents. In Tarrant County, about 100 families have just been notified that care for their kids will end this summer.
Child Care Associates, or CCA, has been around for 47 years. But for the Tarrant County non-profit, it’s getting harder to do business as usual.
In a letter to about 100 parents, CCA’s Kara Waddell says the agency's child care program has been running at a loss for several years. So the organization is suspending full-day child care services beginning May 29 and through the 2015-16 school year. Children who are in Head Start or Early Head Start Programs aren’t affected.
“Something that takes away 4-year-olds leaves the system a little bit vacant in terms of its ability to just function in the black and operate,” Waddell said. “And non-profit programs [and] small child care businesses are struggling to be able to continue to provide child care services at a reasonable cost point per parent.”
Waddell is referring to the expansion of pre-K in the Fort Worth Independent School District. Two years ago, voters approved the plan as part of a bond package. It’s called universal pre-K because it’s open to all 4-year-olds, and rollout of the program began this school year.
According to a study released last week on the impact of universal pre-K, 29 child care centers and 11 child care homes have lost 160 kids to the district’s pre-k program.
“Some of the feedback from the child care community is these are things that we anecdotally have been experiencing and suspected, but to have it more formalized in the form of a study is very helpful,” said Lyn Lucas, vice-president of the Work Family Division at Camp Fire Texas, the 100-year-old organization that did the study.
Lucas said one of the most surprising results from the survey is how some child care providers plan to deal with the loss of children and revenue.
“Some we know would affect quality significantly such as increasing the number of children that one teacher is responsible for,” Lucas said.
The study also revealed that some centers may have to raise prices to stay open, and others may have to close. Waddell with Child Care Associates says the solution is what’s called a mixed-delivery system.
This is how Waddell explains it: “Let’s do pre-kindergarten, but sometimes let’s do it in school buildings and sometimes let’s do it in community-based programs,”
It also means working together. Right now, school-based pre-K classes let out at 2:15, and they don’t offer afterschool care.
“Not every parent can be there at 3 o’clock to pick-up the young child,” Waddell said. “And after school programs that currently help provide a range of care and learning for older elementary students, simply are not able to take care of younger 3 and 4 year old kids.”
Fort Worth school officials would not talk about the study but they did release a statement saying the study points out that services should be coordinated for pre-K kids.