Pre-school grant cut upsets Highland Park parents

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Capital News Service
LANSING — A cut in state funding has upset parents dependent on a day-care program in Highland Park.
The Highland Park School District received a grant last year for several education programs including a program in Highland Park for free full-day care for pre-school children.
The Michigan School Readiness Program, in which 95 children participate, was a was a success for a little while until the state budget cut this spring to fund only half a day instead of a full day.
Many parents expressed concern at the Sept. 10 Highland Park School Board meeting. Some were distressed because the program is their only form of child care while they are at work.
“I need this program to keep my job,” said parent Daliah Patterson.
Some other parents expressed the same concern that the program is now half day instead of a full day.
Brenda Wright, a parent whose son enrolled in MSRP said, “I work eight hours a day, and there is no way to get my son at noon.”
Brenda Rudolph, MSRP director, expressed regrets that the program is not a full day anymore, but hopes that it will get better in the future.
“We provide a quality program and parents know it is quality care, but now we can’t afford the overhead of providing a full day,” Rudolph said.
She explained that the organization is “to the point where it is running into problems staffing” because of the costs of quality childcare.
Rudolph said the program is waiting for a decision from the school board to help solve the problem.
The school board is talking about starting a latchkey program for children whose parents work all day. The children would go to a half day of MSRP and then attend latchkey for the second half of the day at a “minimal cost,” Rudolph said.
Greg Byndrian, Highland Park Schools public information officer, added hope to the MSRP situation, acknowledging that “state funding was reduced” to cause such a cut, but that the school “district leadership is exploring possibilities to meet parental concerns.”
He said a decision will be made soon by the school board, and it will distribute the message as quickly as possible.
Some Highland Park residents are wondering what is wrong with the state budget that would cut a program such as MSRP.
“There is a difference between what we would like to do and what we can afford,” said Kelly Chesney, director of communications at the Office of State Budget.
She explained that “the program has great merit” but, with the limited funds that the budget has, they “had to look to new programs” to cut.
“We couldn’t continue those programs at the expense” of general educational programs that have been around for a longer period of time and are established, Chesney said.
She said that it is the discretion of the district superintendent to “prioritize spending” in their district, but on the budget end in Lansing, “we simply couldn’t afford it,” Chesney said.
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism

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