Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The price of education


As more and more school districts feel the pinch of state and federal budget cuts, it looks as though parents will be making up some of the difference.

For the second year in a row, the Maryville R-II Board of Education approved the increase of preschool tuition during their regular meeting last Wednesday.

Citing a $400 per month deficit between the amount of revenue generated from tuition payments, usage fees, before and after school care and a Missouri Preschool Project Grant and the amount of total expenses, tuition was increased around $5 per month for some students.

While the grant provides $85,000 in funding annually for EFE, parents of preschoolers who attend classes full-time (meaning five days a week, for the entire school day) will pay $295 per month this coming school year — an increase of $5.20 per month over the 2010-'11 year.

Seeing the largest increase this time around, will be the families of students attending preschool for half a day, five days a week. Their rates will increase from $129.15 per month to $135 — an increase of $5.85 per month.

The revenue from preschool tuition and fees, along with the grant, funds the two full-time preschool instructors, secretary and necessary paraprofessionals, along with classroom tools and equipment.

"With rising costs and school districts looking at tighter budgets, we have to save where we can," said EFE principal Holly Brady. "The changes will help us to off-set our costs but are still very competitive when compared to other schools around."

St. Gregory's School currently charges $332 per month for full-time preschool students.

Horace Mann remains the least costly at $282 per month for full-day preschool.

Also seeing an increase at Eugene Field Elementary preschool level, will be parents taking advantage of the before and after school care.

Currently set at $2 per hour, that cost will increase 50 cents per hour this coming school year.

"Primarily where we see the biggest deficit is with the before and after school care of the preschool students," Brady said. "SAC childcare will not go up for elementary level students, but just for the preschool students."

Brady said the school's cost for before and after school care for preschool students is much higher than that of elementary students due to the ratio of students to staff that is required.

Even though per month costs will increase, preschool parents won't see any increase in registration fees, which are actually deducted from the first month's tuition later on. And while $5.20 per month may not seem like much to protest, that amounts to an increase of nearly $50 over the course of the school year.

Though preschool isn't necessarily required for a student to start kindergarten, Brady said that extra year of learning helps prepare young learners for the leap into elementary.

"It doesn't cost anything outside of registration and supplies to attend elementary," Brady said. "But the benefits of preschool are worth it. If nothing else, it helps students learn to socialize and ready for that jump into kindergarten."

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