by Jake Siewert
Whatcom Community College hasn’t had an official Child Development Center for two years now. Because of budget cuts, the school was unable to keep the facility open. When the facility closed back in April 2010, parents suddenly without childcare made their voices heard, but no action was taken.
Some called for financial restructuring of the Child Development Center, rather than abrupt closure of the program. Others offered their time to help plan the finances for the center, but the Whatcom Board of Trustees stood firm.
Amanda Henkel, adjunct faculty in the English department, is also a parent whose son attended the Child Development Center. Henkel was able to find a new child care situation for her son when center closed down nearly two years ago, but said it took a lot of time and research. She was more worried about other parents getting their children to accessible childcare though.
“My main concern about the closure was not my own situation, because I’ve got a lot of resources,” she said. “But the students have limited resources.”
Many parents attend community colleges because it’s easier to balance schoolwork and a child than at a four-year institution. Henkel said other parents voiced their concerns to her when the facility closed, and that many didn’t have a lot of other options when it came to how they could care for their child and get an education.
With the closing of these facilities it becomes harder for parents to multi-task taking care of their own future and the future of their child.
The same thing is happening all around our state as technical and community colleges are being under-funded and becoming unable to run on-site child care. According to the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, the overall cut to the college run childcare system due to the 2009-10 budget enactment is $73.6 million.
The center does find use today as a pre-school for children with low-income families from Tuesday through Friday; however, it does not meet the needs of the 15-month-old to Pre-K age group that it once did.
Whatcom’s Child Development Center met a similar fate as Highline Community College, which also lost its child care program that had been serving the community for over 30 years. Edmonds Community College was on the ropes as well and almost lost its program in 2010.
Whatcom’s parent education program may soon become the next victim of state budget cuts. In the program, parents learn parenting and leadership skills.
An article in the Belligham Herald stated that the program costs Whatcom about $100,000 a year, primarily for faculty. The four parenting educators that comprise the faculty have proposed cuts to their salaries and benefits to reduce that amount by $60,000 a year, starting in spring.
Ron Leatherbarrow, vice president for instruction, stated that he is pleased with the plan to cut the budget, and that he would like to keep the program and the four preschools involved open, but that he can make no promises.
More information can be found at www.bellinghamherald.com in an article entitled “Whatcom Community College parenting education program under budget threat.”