Berkeley Unified School District is considering at its board meeting this week closing the four remaining classrooms offering extended care for preschoolers. The recommendation from BUSD staff (item 3.1-A on the linked board packet) is a response to the state’s cut of 15% in funding for pre-school and extended day programs, and a further 10% proposed state cut in reimbursement fees.
“This is a major issue for families of color in Berkeley,” according to Pablo Paredes, father of a child in one of the remaining extended day programs, and chair of the School Governance Council for the three Berkeley pre-schools. “A quick site visit at Hopkins, King or Franklin CDC will reveal classrooms that almost exclusively serve working poor families of color and these are the classrooms on the chopping block.”
The four classrooms at the moment provide a 9.5-hour day for 96 families. That number is down from eight classrooms serving over 300 families, said Paredes. Paredes said that the proposal runs counter to the BUSD commitment to the 2020 Vision, designed to close the achievement gap between white and non-white students. Early childhood development is singled out as one of the three planning “lenses” in the 2020 Vision.
“We’re hoping parents will find ways to cope,” said Christine Faulkner, Director, Curriculum and Instruction. The state reimbursements pay for 6.5 hours for students that qualify. “You have to pay for an extra half teacher for those three hours.”
Faulkner said that she personally believes “there is no educational value” for children after 6.5 hours. “I don’t think it’s helpful for kids to be at school for 9.5 hours.” She pointed out that kindergarten is limited to four hours a day for educational reasons.
“There are less and less resources available to parents,” said Councilmember Jesse Arreguín. “It puts students at a disadvantage. This will affect the students and families that need help the most. I hope the school district can find a way to keep at least one extended care class.”
According to the staff reports prepared for Wednesday’s board meeting, the deficit for extended care is $65,907 per classroom. Paredes said the BUSD should explore more vigorously closing the funding gap through the Berkeley Public Education Foundation or through BSEP funds. He is rallying pre-school parents to attend the board meeting this week.