The city’s four remaining pre-K extended care classes are threatened with closure. Photo: Pablo Paredes

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.

Lance Knobel

Lance Knobel (co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine in Britain,...

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17 Comments

  1. These kids are societies most precious resource and many of their parents rely on the extended care for legitimate reasons.

    If the schools are forced to provide social services (daycare beyond 6.5 hours a day for a four year old is just that) at least allow those receiving the services pay extra for it.

  2. It all depends on the quality of the school, the teacher, and the curriculum.

    But just being in a classroom interacting with other children and a teacher seems like it would be far more beneficial to a child than going home and sitting in front of the television playing Xbox for hours.

  3. Who’s blaming poor folks for the budget mess? Some of us are just pointing out that these hypothetical fees might be easier for some people to afford if they were taught about budgeting and money management.

    Basic budgeting, money management, and some classes on how to do your taxes really ought to be part of the public school curriculum in America.

  4. This whole thread is amazing. Everyone has some qualified way of blaming poor folks for state budget cuts and BUSD’s neglect of the preschool program. It is insane. Most parents rich or poor make economic choices that are questionable under scrutiny. That is absolutely irrelevant. There are clear formulas that BUSD, the local pre-schools, the state and the federal programs agree on to decide what a family can pay based on salaries and family size. Most of these formulas are not designed in the parents favor. Many people make assumptions. A dead beat dad picks up a child from school a few times a week and people assume his mercedes has something to do with the struggling single mom who single handedly raises that child and pays the bills. Personally I would be affected by this cut and i have no vehicle, don’t own a TV or cable, have the cheapest cell phone available without even texting capacity. I rarely eat out or catch movies, for family quality time we go to parks and other free family fun type events. There are few places left for us to cut our family’s budget. I live in affordable housing… But most importantly BUSD and the schools are not giving us the option of paying to stay there. We are not even a part of the conversation. They decided to recommend cuts and tell the parents later. Luckily we got organized really quickly and are trying to look at alternatives. Contrary to common assumptions that I hear way too often, low-income parents of color care very much about our kids and if you want to test that theory come out tomorrow to the BUSD meeting and see how many low-income parents of color come out for this meeting after long days of backbreaking underpaid work to save their children’s educational opportunities.

  5. This whole thread is amazing. Everyone has some qualified way of blaming poor folks for state budget cuts and BUSD’s neglect of the preschool program. It is insane. Most parents rich or poor make economic choices that are questionable under scrutiny. That is absolutely irrelevant. There are clear formulas that BUSD, the local pre-schools, the state and the federal programs agree on to decide what a family can pay based on salaries and family size. Most of these formulas are not designed in the parents favor. Many people make assumptions. A dead beat dad picks up a child from school a few times a week and people assume his mercedes has something to do with the struggling single mom who single handedly raises that child and pays the bills. Personally I would be affected by this cut and i have no vehicle, don’t own a TV or cable, have the cheapest cell phone available without even texting capacity. I rarely eat out or catch movies, for family quality time we go to parks and other free family fun type events. There are few places left for us to cut our family’s budget. I live in affordable housing… But most importantly BUSD and the schools are not giving us the option of paying to stay there. We are not even a part of the conversation. They decided to recommend cuts and tell the parents later. Luckily we got organized really quickly and are trying to look at alternatives. Contrary to common assumptions that I hear way too often, low-income parents of color care very much about our kids and if you want to test that theory come out tomorrow to the BUSD meeting and see how many low-income parents of color come out for this meeting after long days of backbreaking underpaid work to save their children’s educational opportunities.

  6. Whoever said that a full day kindergarten has no educational value. I would like to see some studies indicating that there is no education value in a full day kindergarten. Besides the extended day for pre schoolers is about a safe place for children while the parents are at work. They BUSD should be able to come up with some kind of compromise that would keep at least one of the after school programs open for the most needy.

  7. I understand your point (subsidized all day daycare for the poor), but Faulkner is responding to the comments in the previous sentence by Parededs: “Paredes said that the proposal runs counter to the BUSD commitment to the 2020 Vision, designed to close the achievement gap”

  8. You make some very good points.

    I don’t have to think twice about spending the money to put my kids in preschool programs precisely because I choose to forgo fancy cell phones, don’t have cable, and drive a beat up old car.

    Some folks really can’t afford that money, but how many more are simply saying that they “can’t afford it” because they want the newest iPhone or are still paying off the shiny new rims for their Caddy?

  9. The fact that people are hesitant to point out that often times poor folks wouldn’t be so poor if they understood something about how to manage money or had different priorities about what to spend their money on is sad. Not as sad as all of the usurious businesses that take advantage of financially unsophisticated people though like rent-to-own scams, car leases, check cashing, and “instant” tax refunds.

    Well-meaning apologists like Bruce Love don’t help matters. Sure, there are some who genuinely can’t spare $60 per month but that’s a tiny proportion of the population using these services. The rest just don’t understand the difference between a necessity and a luxury. An interesting article from the WSJ somewhat related, http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2011/04/23/number-of-the-week-americans-buy-more-stuff-they-dont-need/

  10. I hate to admit it, but lots, though not all of the subsidized kids’ parents at my kid’s mixed preschool drive cars far nicer/newer than the parents of kids who pay full fare.

  11. $60 is also close to the minimum smart phone plan, basic cable, and the cost of a yuppie Slurpie at Starbucks or Peets every day. I live right by the Hopkins St. center mentioned in the article and judging by the size and newness of the pimped out SUVs and cars dropping kids off in the morning there’s a lot more penny pinching that could be going on, at least with the parents I see there.

  12. “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.'”

    Talk about missing the point!
    Most of these parents are putting their kids there for 9.5 hours because they have full-time 9am-6pm jobs and don’t have the money to pay for day care, not because they think their kids need extra education.

  13. It wouldn’t be $56. You have to add in a little extra for the legal arranging, bookkeeping, collections, etc. Let’s say all that gets done on the cheap though and call it an even $60 per month, right?

    So, what does $60/month buy?

    That’s a plausible gas/electric bill. That’s at least three days worth of food for a family of 2 or 3. That’s 20 bucks short of a monthly bus pass — also, what is it these days — around 14 gallons of gas? Its about half the debt size I saw a couple of neighbors have an hour long screaming match over. It’s nearly 10% of the monthly rent of someone I know. $60 will cure one expired meter ticket with a few bucks left over but it won’t cover you for forgetting about street sweeping day. And if you don’t consider it a luxury: it’s hard to get Internet connectivity for much less when all expenses are properly accounted.

    All those are expenses that poor people often struggle with (heat/electricity, food, basic transportation, small debts, rent, snafus like tickets, and, yes, digital divide problems…) — and you can see that $60 per month is a large enough amount to make those struggles worse.

    You get the idea. It’s a decent chunk of change if you’re poor but getting by.

    In other threads, people are all upset about discipline problems in later grades, about the achievement gap and its implications, etc. A lot of people agree, in those threads, that early support for learning – especially for the most at risk groups – can help. Seems to me that programs like this ought to be a platform for that kind of early help and that we only wish we could double down on them rather than having to keep cutting. I’m not saying parents aren’t on the hook for that but when you’ve got parents using programs like this — going to that effort — and it seems unlikely they can just make up the shortfall in fees — it seems like doubling down on these programs would be a public policy justified by the “help those that help themselves” rule of thumb.

  14. I seriously doubt 96 families can’t come up with an extra $56 per month to cover the $65K shortfall.