Thursday, July 30, 2009

Are We Wasting Taxpayer Dollars?

In just a few weeks, Miss K will begin Kindergarten.  My baby.  In school.  Full time.  It's just shocking.

But I'm not concerned because I know she's ready.  We've spent a lot of time reading to her, educating her, practicing her alphabet, numbers, word recognition and (gasp) even multiplication.  But we also enrolled her in preschool for the past two years and that helped prepare her socially for school.

Her first preschool encounter was a 2-days-per-week program through one of the local churches.  She enjoyed it and I felt she was making incredible strides.  Last year, she participated in Iowa's Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program.  Many parents in Iowa aren't familiar with it so if you're not from Iowa, I would be surprised if you were.  Whenever I strike up a conversation with a stranger in say, the doctor's office waiting room, I ask if their child is enrolled.  Heck, I even asked someone at a yard sale last week to make sure they knew.  To sum it up, the state has a program where preschools can apply for grant funding to help facilitate a Kindergarten readiness program for four year old children.   The primarily purpose of the grant is help increase opportunities and access to quality preschools.  Last year, we actually transferred preschools to be able to participate in the grant.  It's not that we thought our preschool was sub-par because it was great.  It's because the grant is typically used to offset tuition.  In other words, it was free.  Yes, free.  Thank you, Iowa taxpayers for paying for my daughter's preschool education. 

Some schools put signs out advertising that their preschool program is free.  They're proud of it because it's a community service and it's win/win for the community and the school.  Preschools get increased enrollment and money to replenish supplies, update toys/equipment and improve teacher wages while on the flip side, families can welcome monetary relief especially in this economic downturn. It's a great program - mostly.  It has a few flaws that I would like to explain...

I thought it was the norm - that preschools participating in the grant utilize the grant funds to subsidize the tuition.  But I recently found out that's not always the case.  In a few very rare cases, the preschools have opted to continue to charge tuition which seriously restricts how the grant funds can be utilized.  Since you only need so many consumable items such as supplies and educational materials, that leaves salaries as one of the few remaining allowable spending slots.  In these few instances, rather than pass the savings along to the community, the teachers are lining their own pockets because (to quote one) "I did a lot of hard work to get this grant and I think I deserve it."  Having worked with grant accountants during my days as an accountant for the city I lived in, I would have been shocked to hear "I applied for this (road construction) grant so I should get a raise."

So I'm stewing and feeling like my tax dollars are being wasted on a few greedy individuals rather than spread out to provide a quality education for families who might otherwise not be able to send their child to preschool.  I don't have any control over the situation other than to inform and educate so that (hopefully) the masses will let it be known that it's NOT okay to reap wages that are 50-100% higher than their peers are getting just because they took the initiative to apply for a grant.

If you live in Iowa and have a child who will be entering Kindergarten next year (2010-2011) then it's worth checking to see if your local preschool is participating in the grant.  If your child isn't enrolled, then what are you waiting for?  Preschool is a great jump-start in preparing for Kindergarten.  However, if your school is participating in the grant AND they are STILL charging tuition, ask them how much of a pay increase they received pre-grant versus post-grant.  If it's exorbitant, go elsewhere.  Those teachers are being self-serving, utilizing the very stringent grant restrictions for their own personal benefit.  I'm certain that I wouldn't want my child being taught by someone whose primary interest in applying for a grant is so selfish.  It's a total waste of my tax dollars.  What are your thoughts?


  • Scott

    I was going to post and call you out as a bleeding-heart liberal, but when I read that some pay themselves 100% more than the average, then I realized what you were trying to say. It does seem there is nothing more than greed involved, and karma will come back and get them. I wonder if the grant checks the pay rates before/after its implementation? If not, they should!