Oregon blows millions on nearly empty preschool program, $220k for ONE student

Early learning facilities in Oregon are flush with cash, scoring millions from the Department of Education for preschool programs for kids from low-income families even when facilities sit empty or only a tiny fraction of available spaces are filled.

As justification for the wasteful spending, the Oregon DOE told Fox News Digital that the funding for the Preschool Promise program is determined by fixed costs such as facilities, staffing, and utilities. The excuse that the centers “require that programs be ready to serve eligible families as soon as they are referred, which means programs must be prepared at all times to serve the full number of funded slots,” was also given.

“In other words, programs cannot delay serving referred children while they hire more staff or move to bigger facilities; the lion’s share of the funding helps them remain prepared to accept referred children immediately,” the spokesperson insanely contended.

Jeff Myers of Save Oregon Schools is the one exposing the funding discrepancy in the so-called “Social Emotional Learning” program. He also slammed the Oregon DOE for a lack of transparency concerning the program which some refer to as universal preschool.

“On ELD’s website they claim to have served 3,756 children in the 2021-22 school year, but that’s not true at all. According to the public records they eventually provided, they did have room for 3,756 children across 268 providers, but the actual number of enrolled children was 3,313,” he told Fox News Digital in an interview.

Village Childcare Enterprises is one such example. The facility has received over $600,000 during the last two years to provide teaching for 33 preschoolers from low-income families. Those grants were targeting 33 preschoolers in 2020-2021 and 20 preschoolers in 2021-2022. As bad as that is, less than ten students enrolled in the program, according to the media outlet.

In 2016, Oregon launched its Preschool Promise program to provide publicly funded preschool to families 200% below the federal poverty limit. “Slots” are awarded to childcare facilities by the Oregon DOE. Each one represents one student who is worth approximately $14,000 according to Fox News.

The amount of money that has been handed to these facilities through the program is obscene. Over the last two years, the Oregon DOE has awarded almost $90 million in grants.

Other examples of the massive waste in the program include All Families Welcome which was awarded 18 slots in 2020-2021. No students were enrolled in the program. In 2021-2022, the program only saw one student. Despite that glaring fact, the center received $300,000 one year and $220,000 the next.

Neighborhood House was awarded 36 slots in both 2020 and 2021. That center had fewer than 10 students in the program. They scored a cool $448,000 one year and $370,000 the next.

Another center to receive funds was Education Explorers which was awarded 12 spots in 2020-2021, and 10 spots in 2021-2022. They had a whopping two students in their program but still received $150,000 in one year and $74,000 in the second year.

(Video Credit: KTVZ NewsChannel 21)

The Finch Academy is another example of outrageous grants being awarded. They were awarded 36 slots in 2020-2021 with no students enrolling. In 2021-2022, they had one student in the program.

The owner, Delorie Finch, blamed the Oregon Department of Education’s Early Learning Division, which administers Preschool Promise, for not filling the slots.

“We have been told that we need to accept the students… we were also told that we would be given the students,” she said, according to Fox News Digital.

The school is licensed for 40 students with 36 slots being reserved for Preschool Promise students who don’t seem to materialize. The owner is being forced to turn away paying customers to keep those slots open.

“The fact that we don’t have these children to service is offending to me, it’s offending to my staff,” she asserted. “This might be the week that they send two or three kids over, but then they never show up.”

“Helping these children is something that is near and dear to my heart. This is a privilege for me to be able to work with children regardless of their socioeconomic status. Our mission is to provide every child with a safe and loving environment in which to strengthen their moral, academic, social, mental, and physical foundation in order to thrive in an ever-changing world,” Finch stated.

(Video Credit: WCPO 9)

Per the Department of Education’s website, grantees must “participate in the regional Early Learning Hub coordinated enrollment process,” but “only enroll families selected through the local Coordinated Enrollment Process administered by Early Learning Hubs.”

The Early Learning Division claims it is reviewing its procedures.

“The Early Learning Division is examining protocols to review enrollment and direct programs to reduce operations until enrollment increases. This protocol was not in place in 21-23 as we tried to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on families and the slow return to childcare due to safety concerns, but it is in discussion for future implementation. Currently, under-enrolled programs are required to reach 75% of enrollment by mid-program year,” a spokesperson said.

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