State budget cuts trickle down to Redmond preschool cooperatives, but schools will continue

At the Redmond Parent Cooperative Preschool (RPCP) and Redmond Toddler Group (RTG), the parents are there to learn just as much as the children.

Eileen Chinn (left) does woodwork with her son Connor Chinn and Gayatri Teegavarapu at the Redmond Parent Cooperative Preschool. The school is part of the Lake Washington Technical College (LWTC) Parenting Education program. Due to state budget cuts

Eileen Chinn (left) does woodwork with her son Connor Chinn and Gayatri Teegavarapu at the Redmond Parent Cooperative Preschool. The school is part of the Lake Washington Technical College (LWTC) Parenting Education program. Due to state budget cuts

At the Redmond Parent Cooperative Preschool (RPCP) and Redmond Toddler Group (RTG), the parents are there to learn just as much as the children.

While the classrooms are filled with youngsters socializing with each other, learning their colors, numbers and letters, it’s the moms and dads who are the real students. As cooperatives, one of the enrollment requirements is that parents volunteer and participate in class as well. And as part of the Parent Education program at Lake Washington Technical College (LWTC) in Kirkland, students learn how to be better parents and receive credit for their time with the preschool groups.

But budget cuts from the state level have trickled down and LWTC officials have proposed to cut the parenting program, which encompasses seven preschool cooperatives in Redmond, Kirkland, Woodinville, Duvall and Bothell. The change would be effective next fall.

This being said, the Redmond groups plan to continue their programs without the LWTC affiliation.

“We’re not going to fail because of (budget cuts)… We will survive,” said Elie Johnson, a board member for RPCP.

This is Johnson’s first year on the school’s board, but she has been involved for two years since her son is enrolled in the school. She said the cuts are unfortunate, but they’re not worried about having to close the 50-year-old cooperative because they have such strong community support and have already received offers of help.

Amy Johnson, president of RTG, said LWTC covers their insurance and pays for their instructors, who are college employees. With these cuts the cooperative, which has been around for more than 30 years, will now have to pay teacher salaries and insurance. Amy said their insurance — currently $1,000 a year — will increase to up to $4,000 per year.

“We are really self funded besides teacher salary and insurance,” she said.

Because of this, Amy said it will make the transition to being completely independent from LWTC easier.

Doug Emory, dean of academic core, hospitality and service at LWTC, said the proposal to cut the parenting program, which would save the school roughly $300,000, came about three weeks ago as school officials looked for ways to make up for the roughly 20 percent state funding shortfall they project for 2011-12. In dollars, they are looking at a $2.2 million to $3 million hole. Emory said the school’s projected budget for the 2011-12 year, which begins July 1, is $12.4 million.

“This is a massive budget cut,” he said.

Emory added that since 2009, LWTC’s state funding has been reduced by about 44 percent.

He said in proposing cuts, the LWTC executive cabinet — which is made up of the school’s president, vice presidents and executive directors — looked at programs that don’t require full tuition and don’t directly align with the college’s mission as a vocational school. He added that standard tuition at LWTC is $88 per credit and tuition for the parenting program, which serves roughly 900 families per quarter, is $13 per credit.

Activity time

The program, which was already a couple decades old when Emory inherited it 12 years ago, is divided into two types of instruction: lectures and labs. Emory said the lectures, which are delivered by the instructors, cover various parenting topics from discipline to nutrition. The lab portion gives parents the opportunity to work and play with the children as well as have open discussions with their classmates — the other parents.

“They get a broader perspective of how to deal with children,” Emory said.

Kim Hansen, president of RPCP, is involved with the school as a parent, but said earning credits at LWTC has kept her teaching certificate current. She said the cuts will eliminate the possibility of earning credits, but this does free up funds in the RPCP budget because the cooperative has paid LWTC a fee as well. They will use this money to put toward other expenses.

The board of trustees at both cooperatives are looking at ways to make up for the cut in funding. Amy said RTG may increase tuition, which ranges from $137 to $162 per quarter. They are also looking at upping their fundraising efforts.

Hansen said these are two things they are also looking at to make up the difference. Both she and Amy said they don’t want to raise tuition too much. Hansen said RPCP is looking at a $10 to $20 increase.

“We’d like our tuition to remain low,” she said.

Another option for funds is donations. Hansen said because the cooperatives are nonprofit organizations, they will ask parents to take advantage of their companies’ donation matching programs if possible.

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