Parents against cut in child-care funds


POSTED: Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Disabled Maui veteran Robert Glass said a proposal to reduce state child-care subsidies for preschoolers, including his 3-year-old son, is taking away their chance for a bright future.

“;As a veteran, I do believe this is what many of us were fighting for,”; said Glass, whose son is experiencing a delay in being able to speak. “;You are cutting their legs before they ever get a chance to walk.”;

More than 65 people testified at two simultaneous hearings at the state Department of Human Services yesterday on a proposal to decrease subsidies to help to meet budget deficits.

Several thousand children would be affected.

Preschool operators warned that many of their low-income clients will be unable to afford their services, and some preschools might be forced to close if the state imposes the cuts.

State human services spokeswoman Toni Schwartz said no deadline has been set for implementing the cuts, and the department will be reviewing the comments.

“;This isn't anything that will go through right away,”; Schwartz said.

Human Services officials declined to give details about the proposal, including the total subsidy reduction, and their director, Lillian Koller, who did not attend the hearing, was unavailable for comment.

During the hearing, most of the testimony opposed the cuts.

“;We will be closing our doors if your proposal is adopted,”; said Kathy Oshiro, board treasurer for Ka Hale o na Keiki Preschool, which serves low-income families in a rural area of Hawaii island.

“;I know our rural families cannot afford any increase of their co-pay. Their choice will be either take food off their family's table and try to pay the increased co-pay or withdraw their child from preschool.”;

Tan Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant, said he and his wife work in a clothing factory, and he might have to take their 3 1/2 -year-old daughter out of preschool if the subsidy is cut.

Nguyen said the preschool has helped his daughter learn English.

“;She has improved a lot and she is now speaking,”; he said.

Some single parents said they might have to quit their jobs to care for their child.

Laurelle Rzeszewski, a single mother who works as an art therapist, said she never imagined that as a college graduate she would face the possibility of quitting her job to take care of her child.

Wayne Watkins, director of the University of Hawaii at Manoa Children's Center, said 30 percent of the 130 student families receiving state preschool subsidies work part time and live on fixed incomes to further their education.

“;These families have little to no discretionary income,”; said Watkins, also state board president for the Hawaii Association for the Education of Young Children. “;An increase to their family co-payment for child-care fees in the amount being proposed would likely bring their educational pursuits to a complete halt.”;