Citywatch: D65 must make cuts; childcare best way to do it

Dalia Naamani-Goldman

All parents want only the best for their children — from food to clothes to opportunities in education. So it isn’t terribly surprising that Evanston parents whose young attend Evanston/Skokie School District 65 schools are upset about budget cuts and the inevitable effects they will have on their elementary school-aged children’s educations.

Some parents and district employees and officials are so outraged by the proposed cuts — which include drama, band programs and childcare — that they organized a march Monday evening in protest. The march was well attended, with more than 200 people present in and around the district’s boardroom, all trying to reconcile the current $1.7 million budget deficit.

But perhaps some parents are so riled up that they haven’t examined the facts surrounding the controversial budget closely enough. There may well be a benefit to outsourcing the district’s childcare services to the McGaw YMCA, 1000 Grove St.

According to Chris Hart, vice president of the YMCA, the organization was looking into the issue of increasing and improving its before- and after-school childcare programs, intended for students in kindergarten through eighth grade, before the budget cuts were proposed.

If D65 were to outsource its program to the YMCA, Hart said the branch might decentralize its childcare program, which would mean children would stay at their own schools’ childcare sites, eliminating issues relating to space and transportation and some liability. In addition to utilizing national YMCA childcare resources and consultants, the local YMCA already has hired a manager to oversee the local project.

As a national organization, the YMCA operates 8,400 childcare sites and serves about 350,000 children each day, Hart said. It seems many parents are pleased with the agencies’ services and think their children are cared for properly and stimulated.

Yes, it is troubling that D65 is in such dire straits that it must cut programs most would argue are critical to children’s development and growth. But as the city of Evanston, the state of Illinois and even the federal government know well, cutting programs can be necessary when money is tight. And if this minor adjustment can save other crucial programs, it at least should be given a fair chance.

It appears using the YMCA as a childcare provider won’t change drastically the services currently offered by the district. The potential for job loss exists, but the YMCA-operated locations still will need childcare providers at each site. Perhaps the YMCA even would be willing to hire the district’s employees, who are experienced and dedicated.

Parents worried their children will be shifted around too much during the school day need not fear. And in the end children could benefit from a revamped curriculum and new programming.

The YMCA, of course, doesn’t have all the answers, just as D65 doesn’t. But if this appears to be the best solution education officials can come up with, and if it doesn’t differ markedly from what exists now, parents should be open to the change.

In the end it’s the children who will be affected. Parents, education officials and childcare providers ought to work closely to ensure their children’s futures are secure — no matter who’s watching over them.