This article is a Letter to the Editor submitted to the Wisconsin State Journal.
Thanks for the editorial, ?What?s going on after school?? Questioning the Madison School Board?s rush to replace private, non-profit after school day care providers with tax-supported Safe Haven programs operated through the Madison School Community Recreation program is a public service.
Last year we had 4,437 low-income children in our elementary schools. As a community, we should support all of them with high quality after school care. However, the district must continue to work with community providers to reach this goal. The scope of the problem is far beyond the district?s capacity.
You were correct in your facts about the proposed change. Some key
points bear repeating.
As you said, ?nothing is wrong with existing programs?. Safe Haven programs meet only the state?s child care standard, a minimal standard.
They do not meet the higher standard of city accreditation met by current providers such as the YMCA and After School, Inc. Lacking city accreditation results in lower rates of state reimbursement for low-income children in Safe Haven programs. Less funding is one cause of less-qualified staff in Safe Haven programs.
In terms of academic opportunities, City evaluations of Safe Haven in 2003 criticized MSCR?s program for lack of ?activities that encourage children?s independent learning experiences? and recommended additional training for staff on developmentally appropriate choices for children. As the City has told the superintendent, ?it is our experience that the orientation of the MSCR programs is not generally toward after school childcare. It is recreation-based?.
?Safe Haven will cost parents and taxpayers more money?. That is beyond dispute. By rushing into this change without consulting parents served
by the current programs, we guarantee that some parents will leave with the displaced programs, depriving MSCR of their fees. We lose the rent paid by the providers that off-sets some of our building and custodial costs. We incur greater staffing, training, transportation, and administrative costs and pass those to the parents and taxpayers.
?Transportation costs are a non-issue?. Also correct. Whether we contract with current providers to transport more low-income childrenhome or pay for transportation to Safe Haven sites, the costs will depend on the number of children added, not on the nature of the provider.
The Board is poised to make this change at Allis and Lincoln-Midvale Schools on August 30. As Superintendent Rainwater told us in June, the money is the next year?s budget, although the Board had no notice of the dollars or this new purpose and has never considered the academic issues, the financial impacts or the effects of our action on our partners in providing after school care?the non-profits and the City of Madison.
The time to contact Board members with your concerns is now. You can reach all Board members at firstname.lastname@example.org.