Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cheaper way to do pre-K?

Is Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools spending too much for administration of its Bright Beginnings prekindergarten centers? School board member Rhonda Lennon raised the question last night, as the board discussed asking county commissioners for millions more to preserve the program.

Lennon noted that centers with fewer than 300 children had administrative payrolls of $200,000 or more. A look at the latest payroll data shows she's right. Tryon Hills Preschool, with about 250 students, is paying about $210,000 for a principal, assistant principal, senior administrative secretary and secretary. Amay James, which is about the same size, pays about $246,000 a year for the same staffing combination.

The board already voted last fall to close Amay James at the end of this school year, merging its students into new preK-8 schools. Superintendent Peter Gorman's budget proposal would close the remaining four centers as the federal stimulus money that kept the program at its current size, with about 3,100 4-year-olds, dries up. Under his plan, the remaining 90 Bright Beginnings classrooms would be located in high-poverty elementary schools that qualify for federal Title I aid.

Seven of the nine board members said last night they support asking county commissioners for about $10 million to cover the stimulus gap and keep the program intact (the county had been footing a bigger share of the preK bill before the economy crashed). Lennon said she'd support maintaining the same number of classes, "but not in the current format."

Lennon made no motion, and agreed to cancel a budget meeting scheduled for today, saying she didn't think it was realistic to ask Gorman to draft a new pre-K plan in less than 24 hours. So it remains to be seen whether he'll find a way to save classes while streamlining costs before the board's May 10 vote, or whether the majority of the board expects him to do so.


therestofthestory said...

Rhonda is correct in her analysis. But do not stop there. CMS has many schools that are wholefully underfilled by design and yet could have a single principal "shared" by 2 schools since all the schools have at least one assistant principal. There are still a number of schools that could be closed and consolidated as will be done next year.

Wiley Coyote said...


There is a way we can "do pre-K" and it won't cost taxpayers a dime.

Eliminate the whole program and make parents do THEIR job of teaching THEIR kids colors, how to behave and that going to school is the most important thing they can do.

Again, Gorman stated and data has backed up the fact, there is no inherent difference between those who go through BB and those that don't.

Cut the entire program NOW!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Wiley Coyote. CMS could save a ton of money by eliminating the entire Pre-k program. It's time to turn off Maury and start being a parent. If you want your child in daycare/preschool, etc...pony up the money and pay for it yourself.

Anonymous said...

CMS provides a free public education to all K-12 children who live in Mecklenburg County whose parents want it. I don't know why it's also in the preschool business.

I think Bright Beginnings is an effective program and I wish CMS could afford to keep it. But I don't like that it's available to only some, not all, children. This seems to me to be in direct conflict with the concept of public education.

Anonymous said...

BB is a fantastic program and it is/has done a wonderful job preparing my child for her educational career. Her time in "day care" has been a huge step in her readiness for the BB program. However, I still pay money, and lots of it, for her to attend before and after school care. I can work to support my kids by myself. I can't speak for all or anyone but myself, but this program is not about a free ride or just teaching colors and manners, it's about acclimating small children into the big big world of crowded schools and the policies and expectations that they are facing and will for decades. Moreover, as for the "data" WC - it is unfortunate that the federal agencies administering the program did not require the data previously. Perhaps having that data over the years would have been beneficial in defending this program. But data is only that - data. It does not capture the child or the larger picture.

For the record, my child is in the program in an actual CMS facility, not the private facilities. She is mixed in with big kids and has accustomed to being a little fish in a big pond. There are things this program teaches that no parent can (not at their fault) by simply placing the small child in the big kid's world.

This program is at risk around the country not just CMS. It is a shame that education receives such little value. Maybe there is a better way to do it, but eliminating it is not the right answer.

Anonymous said...

At four years old, there is no way BB is needed to prepare a child for "their educational career." During this time a child is learning basic skills - educationally and socially - with no real empirical data that being in BB makes them any better off educationally, later on. That is the problem all of us taxpayers have an issue with. It is costing millions of dollars with no value added basis for its continued existence. Period. Why can't people understand that we are broke?? What is more important, keeping classroom sizes smaller for kids in K-12 by not laying of those teachers or allowing people to send their four year olds for free to something that has not been proven (by data) to amount to anything other than a babysitting service?

Anonymous said...

As someone who has seen and been involoved in the Bright Beginnings Program, I would challenge anyone to come in and spend a day in one of the pre-K classrooms. In case you don't know or realize, kindergarten has changed dramatically over the years and now looks like what first grade used to be. The demands are much more rigorous and demanding and children often get lost if they do not have a strong foundation of not only academic skills, but social-emotional and behavioral skills.

As for the data that says that pre-k doesn't make a difference, I challenge you to get involved in education, at any level, and measure for yourself what kind of difference it makes. Let's find ways to become part of the solution in helping all children succeed.

Anonymous said...

@8:18pm It's not up to the taxpayers to provide any child under the age of 5 (kindergarten) a strong foundation of not only academic skills, but social-emotional and behavioral skills. That's the parent (or parents) responsibility. If people aren't willing or able to teach their children the basics then the parent(s) should pay for someone else to do it out of their own wallet. Bright Beginnings is nothing but a feel good entitlement program that can no longer be afforded. Cut the program from the budget and use the money to keep K-12 teachers.

Anonymous said...

@ 8:18. That is a load of bull. What my mother taught me before K-5 are the same things that the children now a days are being taught. The fact of the matter is, no matter how much you can say "come take a look and see what good it does," the results tell a different story and CMS cannot explain it away with feel good stories. It is all about parenting - it is not the tax payers job to take the place of parents. It's a social experiment that has failed miserably. Cut it.

Anonymous said...

Bright Beginnings is a program for kids that need extra time preparing for the K-12 environment. Those of you who leave comments concerning canceling the program based on your interpretation of the intent of BB need to educate yourselves as to the basis for entrance. I'm sure there are other tax dollars that may be spent on things that can stand cuts. Education for young children who struggle for whatever reason, is not an area that should ever be considered in budget cuts.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 10:44...

Here's the daily schedule:

Daily Schedule

30 minutes Start-the-Day Centers

15 minutes Morning Meeting

60 minutes Center Time

15 minutes Toileting and Snack

20 minutes Story Time

30 minutes Outdoor Play

20 minutes Songs, Word Play, Letters

10 minutes Hand Washing/Toileting

90 minutes Lunch/Quiet Time/Centers

20 minutes Small Groups

20 minutes Let's Find Out About It/Let's Talk About It

20 minutes End-the-Day Centers

How to Enroll Your Child

Enrollment Requirements
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools offers a pre-kindergarten program for children who:

Will be four years old on or before August 31.
Live in Mecklenburg County, and
Demonstrate an educational need for pre-school as determined by a screening at the Bright Beginnings Screening Office or The Exceptional Children's Department.

GLORIFIED babysitting and what parents should be doing themselves.

There are 155 "exceptional children our of almost 3,200. Let's help the 155 under a different program and scrap the 2,663 that get in under Title I.

CMS offers the Bright Beginnings and More at Four programs for eligible students who will be four years old by Aug. 31. Bright Beginnings is a federally funded program for students with identified educational needs. It is a full-day, literacy-based program to prepare students for kindergarten. Bright Beginnings currently serves more than 3,000 students at five pre-K centers and 14 elementary schools. Eligibility is determined by a screening process and students with the greatest educational needs are admitted first.

Then let the Feds pay for the whole thing and keep Mecklenburg County taxpayers out of it!

Anonymous said...

Don't you think there are other families who have children that might need extra help? Yep, and they pay for it, because as far as I'm concerned, my taxes fund K-12. It's an entitlement program that needs to be cut. When I see that schedule, It says it all.