BOE Discusses Fate of Cambridge Park Preschool
Should it be shut down? Tell us!
Parents of Cambridge Park Preschool students might have to shell out a little more cash for tuition this year.
The Matawan Aberdeen Board of Education discussed the financial burden the program has placed on the district since funding was cut in 2007 at their committee workshop meeting Monday night.
The preschool costs $482,000 a year to run and there is a shortfall of $378,233 in funding for the program, according to Board of Education President Charles Kenny. Kenny explained that there are three levels of tuition for the school based on the family's income - full tuition, reduced tuition and free tuition. Full tuition is currently set at $3,000 while reduced tuition is set at $600.
This year, there are 87 regular needs students enrolled in preschool at Cambridge Park. Thirty-three pay full tuition, nine pay reduced tuition and 45 attend for free.
The tuition increase proposed by Superintendent David Healy would call for a $500 increase to full and reduced tuition and an elimination of the free option. This would put full tuition at $3,500 and reduced tuition at $1100. Students who previously qualified for free tuition would pay reduced tuition.
In comparison to the current student enrollment, the district would receive an additional $70,500 in tuition revenue that would help support the program.
There is no state or federal mandate that requires a district to have a preschool for regular needs children, however there was previously state funding available, Healy explained.
"When the program initially opened, there was funding associated with it that essentially made it a program at no cost to the district. That funding has since been discontinued and therefore the district picks up the cost," Healy said.
Healy pointed out that the increase in tuition would only be a temporary fix. Even with the additional money, there would still be a shortfall of $307,733 annually. The board also discussed closing the school.
"Can we continue to do this? If the answer is yes, then we can figure out how to hack away the debt. But the debt is never going to go away. We're reducing it by 70,000, which is nice, but what about next year?," said Board Member Jeff Delaney. "I would love to give every kid in this district preschool. We have to decide if we can do it. Does the money have to go somewhere else? Should it go somewhere else?"
Board Member Anissa Esposito felt that the sum of money being lost each year is too high to ignore and that the board has to honestly consider eliminating the preschool program.
"I don't like taking any educational program away from kids. But this is a big number and given everything we've been through in the last couple of years it's not a small thing to sneeze atm" Esposito said. "I can't see any other program in this district that we have where we would accept that. We've done away with programs on shorter notice than this for similar losses and they had educational benefit also."
Board Member Ken Aitken pointed out that even if the program was eliminated, the board wouldn't automatically have an additional $482,000. Tenured faculty and other resources would have to be placed elsewhere in the district.
No decision was made regarding tuition or the fate of the program. The board is expected to address this issue at their regular action meeting on Mar. 26.
Editor's note: This article was updated to reflect that Jeff Delaney questioned whether the board could continue to support the preschool program, not Gerald Donaghue.