WA District Cuts Decades-Old Parenting Education Program

A school district in Washington could soon see its $100,000 a year community college parent education program scrapped as officials try to figure out how to deal with state budget cuts that could total $1.8 million.

The 39-year-old parenting education program, which serves around 140 parents, is affiliated with five cooperative preschools in Whatcom County, but is now under risk. It shares concern with many community and technical colleges in the state as officials attempt to work out how to keep these programs going as the squeeze on their budgets continue, writes Kie Relyea at the Bellingham Herald.

Peggy Wepprecht, a parenting educator who has helped teach parents leadership skills and how to run the preschools that their children attend for 34 years, said:

"We're asking that they do not eliminate it, even if they have to cut it back so that maybe five, 10 years down the road we can build it up again. We went through this in the '80s when there was a recession. We were able to save it then."

Kris Smith, coordinator of the parenting education program, said:

"Our fear is once it's eliminated, it's not coming back. Historically, that's what happens to these kinds of programs."

Ron Leatherbarrow, vice president for instruction for Whatcom Community College, said:

Yet, "the college is very committed to finding the means to continue the program.

"I can't make a promise at this point, but I believe that will happen."

The cost of the classes comes to $42 per quarter for a three-credit class, and as a three-credit class normally costs about $300, it is hardly going to be the most expensive thing on the budget. And because of this, Leatherbarrow is quick to emphasis that the college also is scrutinizing other programs in expectation of cuts in state funding.

One option that Leatherbarrow and other college presidents' are considering includes a provision that people will pay according to their ability.

"There are a lot of people who can afford to pay who are attending the program," he said.

Parents in the program currently attend monthly parenting education meetings, volunteer in their child's classroom twice a month and volunteer as board members, which lowers the cost of their child's enrollment.

Darcie Donegan, parenting educator for the program, said:

"The program has been around a long time. We've worked with probably thousands of families at this point.

"With all the budget crunch and all the hits that higher ed is taking, of course the college is looking at whether our program can survive."

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