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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Parents Decry Cuts, Privatization Scheme at Child Center

Parents Angered By Choices Offered

By Brian Donahue

Faced down by some 75 angry parents and community members, city officials last night delayed making steep cuts and privatizing the city's public pre-school.

Boisterous parents booed City Manager Patrick O'Keeffe after he chided parents for being 'too emotional.' "You need to be realistic here," Mr. O'Keeffe said.

The outbursts followed an official presentation from city officials explaining that the city's pre-school on 53rd Street, officially called the Emeryville Child Development Center, must be turned over to a private operator to cut costs.

Officials have been slashing budgets and trimming services from the center for many years. Several years ago, funding was cut and the most experienced, and consequently highest paid, 'Master Teachers' were let go. In 2005, the city council terminated the infant program at the center. Councilwomen Nora Davis and Ruth Atkin said the city could "no longer afford" day-care services for infants. The ensuing controversy led Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis to replace some of the funding, with the stipulation that the children of the company's employees get priority for any open spaces. The Novartis campus, formerly Chiron, is just down the block from the center.

To quiet Tuesday's crowd, which appeared to be growing volatile, Councilwoman Nora Davis rose to praise the center, after spending years trying to bury it. The performance, according to one observer, was worthy of Shakespeare.

Ms. Davis, who Tuesday called the center one of Emeryville's "jewels" has voted against it at every opportunity.

Omitted from the official presentation of stark budget realities, tied financial hands and heavy hearts, was any mention of plans to construct a $125 million super-building to house a new high school, junior high school, elementary school, senior center and recreation center. Plans for the so-called Center of Community Life are moving ahead despite the city and school district's financial problems.

Parents received no answer from Ms. Davis, Ms. Atkin or Mr. O'Keeffe as to why their oft stated commitment to the education of all children excludes the city's youngest learners. Mr. O'Keeffe, however did say that the city is forbidden from using any of the Redevelopment Agency's copious cash for actual human needs. Those millions and millions can apparently only be used to subsidize more shopping malls and office buildings and are forbidden to be spent on any operational costs. One parent demanded to know why the city couldn't get money for the center as part of a development agreement before projects are approved. There was no response from any city official.

Whether city officials have the brains or the cajones to recover some funding back from developers to help pay for programs like the city's pre-school, remains to be seen.


  1. Why do we even have a public pre-school? Shouldn't parents pay for this? Isn't that the normative condition?

    The Center for Community Life will be just that: a center for the community--the whole community. Everyone will be able to use the recreation center and the library, etc. Not just people with pre-school aged kids. Isn't that a better use of taxpayer money? It seems more equitable to me.

  2. FYI -In point of fact parents do pay tuition for their own children at the Child Development Center. The State grants some parents financial assistance based on income. The City helps with this financial assistance to some of the parents. Most parents pay tuition without any subsidy.

  3. The Anonymous poster raises a good point. Why do we have a public pre school? Why do we have a public post office? Why do we have public fire departments? Why do we have US military? Why not just have mercenaries like Blackwater shoot people? Why do we have public water systems or public sewer systems. It would be much more efficient and cheap if I could dump my bucket of poop into SF Bay, instead of having a bunch of lollygagging, goldbricking public employees "treating" our sewage.

  4. A public pre-school? Pure SOCIALISM!!! next thing, these people will want a public retirement system for the elderly and roads built by taxpayers. What is this country coming to? Police Chief Ken James should round up these malcontents and give them the old "LaCoste treatment" on the way to the police station. That will rid Emeryville of these no-good Communists once and for all.

  5. Every community must think of itself as a whole and not as an individual entity. Children and families deserve to have their society support them. Children are the future that will support you; treat them well and with respect and you will also receive the same. It is our duty as citizens to support our newest citizens, the children, who right from the start deserve our respect and our support. We will not survive without the recognition that we are all in this together.

  6. Kudos to Nora Davis for recognizing the mood of the crowd and acting appropriately. Far too many times these days, our elected officials stand for their principles and don't bend to the public will. Clearly, our nation's founders didn't bend to the public will, which any historian will report was fully in favor of the King of England and remaining a colony.

  7. I was there! What is up with Nora Davis? After her voting record on the center to talk as she did? Pretty shameless. At least Ruth Atkin had the common decency to just listen. Politicians will be politicians.

  8. FYI Brian,

    All parents whose children attend the ECDC receive a subsidy from the city. The program is kept at market rate, but is in fact a little lower than schools that are similar. The children receiving state subsidies are supported a little more. No parent pays what the city says the cost is for each child. Yes, on the brochure it says no subsidy, but that is just simply wrong. The city says it costs $19,000 per child, the full payment is, I believe, $13,000 plus for preschool children.

  9. My statement in the comment above, that "most parents pay tuition without any subsidy" was relayed to me from the ECDC itself.

  10. ECCL is a pipe dream. Just watch the city council flush the money for the project down the toilet on endless meetings and presentations. It's been over 7 years and they are no closer to breaking ground than they were 7 years ago.

    Since when does a School District hire an Architect? AND THEN hire that architect an assistant.
    Guess Roy Miller has the right friends in Emeryville.