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Day-Care Dilemma : School Districts Struggle With State Funding Requirement

July 06, 1986|SUE AVERY | Times Staff Writer

When Linda Garcia, director of instructional support services for the Bassett Unified School District in La Puente, learned that her district would receive $90,000 a year from the state for a subsidized day-care program for schoolchildren, she was eager to get it started.

But three months after the new program began, the district may have to consider dropping it.

Like many of the 12 other San Gabriel Valley school districts and agencies that received more than $1 million for the day-care program, Bassett has been unable to meet a provision requiring a 50-50 mix between students attending the program free of charge and those whose parents must pay tuition.

Most of the school systems and agencies either are proceeding with programs even though they do not meet the requirement or are charging such a low tuition that they are losing money.

One system--the Rosemead School District--even has voted to spend some of its own money to provide a $16,000 subsidy to lower the tuition.

Only Pasadena has more than enough parents willing or able to pay.

Pasadena received $100,000 for its program, which started July 1. The district now is serving 56 children at two sites, with tuition set at $140 a month.

Lucille Wilson, who is in charge of the Pasadena program, said her next step will be to see if some of the tuition parents are eligible for the subsidized program.

"I would expand if I had additional money from the state because I already have more than enough children in the tuition-based program for the match," she said.

But most programs need more paying parents.

The Garvey School District, which received $100,000, has not found enough children paying full tuition to balance the program, even though the district is charging only $1.20 an hour, which would total $24 for 20 hours of child care a week.

"We had planned to serve 110 children at four schools--55 subsidized and 55 tuition--but we have only 15 full pay, so we are only serving 70 children," said Joan Hoff, supervisor of child development for the Garvey district.

What all the district officials hope is that the Legislature or state school officials will soften the match requirement.

State officials said that they hope the law will be amended and that they will be flexible in determining whether the requirement must be met.

Under the law, sponsored by state Sen. David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles), school districts and agencies were given $16 million to set up programs by July 1 aimed at providing care before and after school for the elementary school-age children.

The provision that at least half of the children come from families who can pay the full cost was included to ensure that children from low-income families would not be segregated into separate latchkey programs.

Need Requirements

To qualify for free tuition, children must come from families with incomes of less than $25,000 a year and meet criteria for need as well as income.

Under the programs, trained child development teachers oversee educational projects and games, arts and crafts activities, field trips, homework time, tutorial assistance and recreational activities.

"We now have 22 full-pay and 27 subsidized children," a mix that fails to achieve to required 50-50 balance, Garcia said.

The Bassett program, which is operated out of two schools, costs $38 a week. Like other districts, Bassett contracted with the state to provide child care for a specified number of children, based on how much the district thought it would cost per hour to provide quality care for each child.

Variations in Cost

The number of child-care slots available and the cost varies from district to district.

"We are trying to keep the cost low so full-paying parents can stay in the program," Garcia said. "But the school board knows we may not break even financially if we can't find more full-paying children."

She said the Bassett board will review the program in December, analyzing costs and income. And the board could decide either to subsidize the program or drop it if it is losing too much money.

The Rosemead district had not offered any child-care programs before, so Richard Tauer, who is in charge of the program, had no idea what to expect.

'New Area'

"The problem for us is that nobody knew anything about child-care programs, so it was a new area to learn about," Tauer said.

He said Rosemead's program, which started at three schools on June 2, has gotten off to a good start, with 52 children now enrolled.

The district will fill the remainder of its 84 available slots after more full-paying children come into the program. Now, with the help of the $16,000, the program has reached the 50-50 mix.

"We charge the full-paying parents $80 a month, but the district is subsidizing the program because it costs more than that," he said.

Anticipates Problems

Options, a San Gabriel Valley child-care agency, received $100,000 from the state to run programs for Granada, Northrup and Marguerita schools in Alhambra and Plymouth School in Monrovia for the next year.

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