Maria Cintron was making a living preparing other young children for preschool. Her own daughter, however, has had to settle for day care and home schooling. Now, after several attempts to find Adianez a spot in preschool, her mother had to leave her job as a home caregiver for young children to take care of the 4-year-old herself when the cost of day care became too much. “A lot of us parents work during the day, so it’s hard,” said Cintron, who now earns some income taking care of her father at home. “But what it’s even harder on is the kids.”
The mother was part of two busloads of parents and union officials who traveled, children in tow, to Trenton Monday to protest the state’s apparent reluctance to approve expanding Lakewood’s preschool program using federal funds.
The school board applied for the $900,000 expansion in September, hoping to run it for 10 months through most of this school year.
Some 200 parents signed up their children for the new openings. A contract was awarded to a child care agency, Tiny Tots, which quickly rented space and mobilized staff. Yet as months passed with no word from the state’s Department of Education, the price tag dwindled and frustration grew among district officials.
The cost now stands at $630,000 for December on, according to the district’s business administrator, Robert Finger.
The money would come from the $5.4 million in Title I stimulus money the district is expecting.
In an Oct. 30 memo, Suzanne Ochse, the DOE’s director of Student Achievement and Accountability, deemed the district’s application incomplete and requested further information. According to district officials, during a phone conversation in November, the state suggested the program would not be approved because, rather than supplementing, it would be supplanting the existing, locally funded preschool, which goes against Title I guidelines.
Board attorney Michael Inzelbuch sent an email to Ochse on Nov. 19 asking to confirm whether that was the state’s position, to which Ochse, according to Inzelbuch, replied, “That is correct.” Read Zach Patberg’s full article in APP.