Laney Community Presses to Reopen Child Care Center

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday September 15, 2006

With the Laney College Children’s Center infant and toddler program closed for the 2006-07 school year, at least, Laney students and faculty continue to press Peralta Community College District officials to get it re-opened. 

Last May, the Planet reported that Peralta was closing the Laney infant and toddler child care program due to budget problems, with the pre-school portion of the children’s center program remaining intact. 

While housed at Laney, the program is run by the Peralta district office. At the time of the announcement, the Laney College Children’s Center was serving 48 children between 3- and 5-years-old, 16 toddlers between 2- and 3-years old, and 11 infants under 2-years-old. While the parents of many of those children were Laney College students, the center was open to the general public for enrollment. 

Since that time, however, Peralta has instituted a program to give priority placement at the center to children of Laney students. 

Tuesday night at the Peralta Community College District Trustee meeting, Mahasin Moon, a San Francisco State student whose children began attending the children’s center while Moon was attending Laney College, turned in the latest of more than 1,100 petition signatures asking Peralta to reinstate the infant and toddler’s program. 

The petitions say, in part, that Peralta made the decision to close the program “without proper consultation with the students, faculty, administrators and classified staff of Laney College. 

It also noted that “access to convenient, affordable, quality child care (such as that provided by the Laney Children’s Center) allows students who are parents to attend Laney College and succeed with their educational and career goals.” 

The petitions are being circulated by the Laney Task Force to Save the Laney Children’s Center, the Laney College Faculty Senate, Laney College Classified Senate and Associated Students of Laney College. 

Following a July trustee meeting in which faculty, students and staff spoke up for the day care program and the first of the petitions were turned over to trustees, Peralta Chancellor Elihu Harris set up a District Task Force on Childcare, headed by Peralta Vice Chancellor Margaret Haig and Harris special assistant Alton Jelks. 

Haig said on Tuesday that the task force has met twice over the summer “with the goal of trying to make the availability of child care accessible for all of the district students. However,” she added, “we have had somewhat limited success with the population we were trying to attract.” 

Calling the program closure an “atrocity” in her remarks to the trustees prior to Haig’s report, Moon criticized the fact that Peralta was opening an infant and toddler program at Merritt College at the same time it was closing the one at Laney. “We need our center open,” she said. “This is affecting the college and professors as well as the students. Some students are being forced to bring their children to class with them because they have no other place to put them.” 

Merritt’s infant and toddler day care program opened this year as part of the college’s child care teacher training curriculum, with students providing the teaching staff for the children participating in the program. Peralta officials say they plan to expand the curriculum to Laney sometime in the future, if possible, allowing the Laney infant and toddler program to reopen. 

In addressing the proposed program closure last spring, Vice Chancellor Haig told trustees that the closures were necessary because of mounting deficits of Peralta’s three children’s centers, including Laney, College of Alameda, and Merritt College. Haig said that the centers lost $100,000 in fiscal year 2003, $200,000 in fiscal year 2004, and were projecting a $400,000 deficit in the current fiscal year. 

Following this week’s board meeting, Laney Faculty Senate President Evelyn Lord said that “our shared governance community has not given up on reopening these programs this year,” adding that the coalition is seeking alternate funding for the program. 

She promised in an email to day care program supporters last summer that the coalition “will continue our petition drive until we have a firm commitment from the district to find the money and keep the Laney Children’s Center infant, toddler and pre-school programs open.”