This is part 11 of my interview with Marilee Cosgrove of the Fullerton School District. Our focus was on “Lessons Learned” –creating an effective quality pre-school program in a public school context. Here, she talks about how she thinks her program could do better.
Q: How could you improve? Do you do any all day, or infants? How do you cover families where all of the adults have to work?
A: The word “Journey” is over-used. Everything is evolving – we get to one point, then it’s “where do we go next” – it’s always growing and changing depending on the needs and interests of whatever children are in the program, and their families.
Q: So an all-day program?
A: We don’t do that very well – we’re 8-11 or 12-3, and our fee-based is 8 to 12. There isn’t as much demand, partly – a lot of care comes from extended family, and we try to get them on board at the parent/child studio. We’d love to do all day, but it would be economic hardship for parents. Full day funded programs require parent fees, and different communities have different ways of supporting parents – depends on where they define poverty level and family income. We have maybe 10% that can go over-income, and they can pay anything, but the state will pay $36/child/six hours – it’s $44 in regular care … so parents have to make up the difference. We don’t do all day or all year – with some of the services, like lunches, you’re kind of stuck with the school year, when you depend on their service departments.
A: Our biggest barrier is simply low income parents don’t want to pay. The easiest thing to add would be full day school year only – some people would be able to pay extra, and it wouldn’t be that hard to implement. It’s all driven by parent demand, and what the market is like in your community.
Q: And …
A: You can always do better. Once you are letting the kids’ interests and skills drive things more, there are really very few limits – it keeps everyone on their toes. Yeah – we can do better, all the time, at everything. That’s how it works.