A long-time St. Michael childcare provider is urging the St. Michael-Albertville School Board to end its Just4Kids program that she said competes with hers and other businesses.
Nancy Pelletier has operated ABC Childcare since 1991, and she said ever since STMA began its program for 4-year-olds five years ago, her enrollment has gone down.
STMA Supt. Jim Behle countered that the school district wants to give families choice, and that most school districts provide such programs.
The school board three years ago turned down a similar request by Pelletier to end Just4Kids, and Pelletier has asked that the board reconsider the matter at its Dec. 17 meeting.
“In your quest for more tax dollars, I ask you and the board members to discuss what the school district can do to build the local economy and reduce the tax burden,” Pelletier wrote to Behle. “I also ask you to validate why Community Ed needs to offer the Just4Kids program. Parents do expect options from which to choose in our community and there are plenty of options for childcare in the private sector of our community.”
Pelletier also suspects that STMA’s program helped drive another area childcare provider to shut down. That provider, Especially For Children, recently closed after being in business in Albertville for 10 years.
“They just didn’t have enough kids to keep going,” Pelletier said.
And, Pelletier added, her own business hasn’t been doing as well as in the past. “Enrollment was up before (STMA) began its program,” she said. “Since then our numbers have gone down.”
Supt. Behle noted that STMA’s program only increased by nine students in the last year. “The census in Wright County shows live births have been down since 2008,” he said. “So I think there is a demographic change. There just aren’t as many children.”
The board three years ago said STMA’s program is a service to the community and effectively uses school facilities. The Just4Kids program is operated at the Community Education building. The board also noted the program is valued by parents.
“It’s not the district’s intent to compete,” Behle said. “It’s to be in service to the community and use the facilities well.”
He also noted that St. Michael Catholic School also opened a preschool program. And, he said, if the district ends its program, jobs would be eliminated.
“The board is very cognizant of balancing needs,” he said.
Pelletier said she has a simple request: “Your intent to offer a program simply as a response to the requests from some families without looking at the burden to the community as a whole seems irresponsible to me,” she said. “I don’t think the public school district should be competing against private enterprise. I’m asking STMA not to compete.”