Mountain View Voice

News - May 13, 2011

Cuts to preschool program will have ripple effect

by Nick Veronin

Preschool services for the children of some local adult school students will be significantly cut back next year, an official with the Mountain View-Los Altos Adult Education program said.

Laura Stefanski, director of the MVLA Adult School, said that because of the unexpected elimination of the federally funded Even Start grant, which provides support for childhood education, adult literacy and parenting education programs, the Adult School had no choice but to make the cuts — equivalent to a little more than one full-time position.

On March 4, it was announced that Even Start money would not be made available next year — too late for the Adult School to come up with the approximately $133,000 that the grant would have provided.

It cost the Adult School $285,000 to run the child care center this year, so losing the grant cut the preschool's budget almost in half. Stefanski said the Adult School was able to reallocate some funds and even raised some money at the last minute, but ultimately they had to make the decision to server fewer children and families next year.

Stefanski estimated the Adult School will have to turn away as many as 14 students next year from two programs — the English as a second language morning class and the young parent program in the afternoon.

Students attending these programs rely on the Adult School's childcare services to watch their children while they learn English and parenting skills.

Because law requires child care centers to have very low teacher to child ratios for infants and toddlers, eliminating even one preschool instructor can greatly impact the number of children a program can accept.

Stefanski said the morning ESL class will likely reduce its capacity from 22 to 12 children, and the afternoon young parenting class will likely move from 16 down to 12.

The cuts will have a ripple effect throughout the entire community, Stefanski said.

Fewer adults will have an opportunity to improve their English skills, which will impact their ability to function in the community as well as their ability to help their children learn the language.

The Adult School also teaches parents how to engage in their child's education, giving instruction on how to check in with teachers, visit with school counselors, stay on top of homework assignments and what kinds of questions to ask at back to school night.

It may sound simple, Stefanski said, but for young parents and those not familiar with the American culture, these classes really do empower students.

"It is a program within a larger program," Stefanski said. It helps make the transition from preschool to grade school smoother for the parents and for the children. "Preschool is really essential for a child to be successful as he or she goes into kindergarten."

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