School board to discuss Learning Center rates

Xavier Smith • Apr 26, 2018 at 4:53 PM

The Wilson County Board of Education will discuss Learning Center rate increases next week during its monthly work session.

The proposed Learning Center rate increases are included in the proposed Learning Center parent handbook.

“In order to continue providing care for the same number of children at the same number of Learning Center sites as we currently operate, my proposal for the TLC program is to increase rates for the Learning Centers $60 per week per child from the current rates effective July 1, 2018. The discount for multiple children will still apply,” Anne Barger, supervisor of early childhood and family resources, said in an email earlier this month.

The proposed weekly rate for children up to 36 months is $195, and $185 for children 37-60 months. The sibling discount is $20.

“We will try to keep these rates for the current sites through the 2019-2020 school year,” Barger said. “We will consolidate sites based on enrollment and state ratio requirements, if necessary.”

Time changes are also included in the proposed Learning Center changes.

Sites that currently operate from 6:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. are proposed to close at 3:30 p.m., excluding Mt. Juliet Elementary School. Sites that currently operate from 7 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., including West Wilson Middle School, are proposed to open at 7:30 a.m.

Elzie Patton Elementary School is proposed to operate from 6:30 a.m. until 4 p.m.

The school board approved a $20 weekly rate increase for its Learning Center last year and voted to keep two locations open until the end of the current school year.
The board voted last May to increase fees for the Learning Center, a childcare program for children of Wilson County teachers until the children reach school age, during a three-year period after school leaders indicated the Kids Club program has subsidized the program in the past few years.

Mickey Hall, Wilson County deputy director of schools, discussed the program during the May 2017 meeting and said the program was introduced as a recruitment and retention tool for educators.

“Back then, we didn’t have the software in place that we could tell them that or not,” Hall said last May. “Now we have the evidence to show the Kids Club is breaking even. TLCs are not.”

The group grappled during the meeting a year ago about the appropriate way to cover the needed funds, estimated at $350,000, which included taking the money from the district’s general purpose fund, raising the fees in one year or eliminating the program, which no board member indicated was a viable option.

Hall said the district raised the program’s rate in 2014 when the board approved a $9.50 an hour starting pay for all school system employees. He said, at the same time, several parents of Kids Club children, the after-school program for school-aged children, said they believed they were supplementing the Learning Center.

Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright said Hall worked to create the gradual increase option, which she said would still draw funds from the Kids Club.

However, Barger said at the time the change did not affect the financial situation, which led to a recommendation to close Learning Center locations at Carroll-Oakland School and Mt. Juliet Elementary School, among other changes, including a weekly rate increase. 

Hall said the Learning Center program lost about $194,000 from the beginning of July through the end of October.

“We cannot continue to sustain that. That’s for a quarter,” said Hall, who said the program would cost about $582,000 per year.

“The frustration that I have is that – we said this last spring – is that this program for the teachers, which is a wonderful program, was probably misrepresented in some cases for teachers to come work here, saying it was a benefit when it was really just a service,” board member Tom Sottek said last year. “It was a service that was provided that need to be paid for by somebody.”

Board member Wayne McNeese made the motion last year to keep the locations open until the end of the school year and implement the $20 weekly rate increase, which also allow the school board and district staff time to analyze other options to make the program sustainable in the future.

The group indicated a recommendation could be made this spring.

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