Pre-K programs dealing with effects of proration

Published 8:24 pm Thursday, February 12, 2009

Upon hearing the word “proration,” it probably brings to mind budget cuts to countless elementary, middle and high schools across the state. However, not many take into consideration the impact it has on pre-kindergarten programs.

Patricia Daniels can explain firsthand. She lost $5,000 — or 4.5 percent — of her overall budget for Toyland’s Office of School Readiness Pre-Kindergarten.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” Daniels said. “And that was an understatement.”

Daniels said operating funds come in the form of a grant each year from the state Department of Children’s Affairs. That grant usually covers 100 percent of teacher salaries, supplies, parent enrichment, field trips — everything needed to operate a pre-k program.

However, this year’s appropriation is $5,000 less than last year. Daniels said she was notified in early January of the cut.

“What that means for us is that it takes away the extra things outside of normal curriculum,” she said. “That means less supplies for the kids — pencils, paper, crayons — you name it. Books and everyday things like toilet paper, paper towels, soap and all that. We meet the (state education) guidelines, but it’s the little extras we were able to do — they’re gone.”

One of those major extras is field trips, she said.

“I don’t mean field trips like out of town,” she said. “I mean trips to Wal-Mart where we give each child a dollar so we can teach them about money, how to shop and math skills. That means trips to LBW and the dream park.”

Currently, there are 18 students — three of whom have special needs — enrolled in the pre-k program. There is one lead teacher and two aides.

There is also a group of dedicated parents who have agreed to do whatever it means to make up those lost funds, Daniels said.

“We put that money in our budget; now it’s been taken out and we have to make it up,” she said. “If we can’t, we’ll have to do without.

“On Saturday, we had a car wash and we’re planning a yard sale in March,” she said. “We’ve even got one parent who works out at the airport who worked it out so that for one of our field trips we can go to the airport and look at the planes. They even got the meals paid for.

“I’ve got two other parents who both paid $250 each to cover the costs of graduation for the children,” she said.

“Now, funding is in question for next year,” she said. “We still have to take enrollment and we don’t even know if we’re going to get any funding. If we don’t, we just have to tell parents that the education budget just won’t allow us to have the program.

“We have to continue on like everything is OK and just hope for the best,” she said.

There are two other OSR pre-k programs in the county, operated at Red Level School and Tiny Tots Daycare. They also received cuts in funding.