Lakewood Board Plans to Use Stimulus Funds for Preschool


princeton-avenue-school-building1The Asbury Park Press reports: Some tax watchdogs have come out against the Board of Education’s plan to use federal money to expand the preschool program, arguing it will potentially burden taxpayers while cheating nonpublic school education.

A letter to parents from the Lakewood Association Coalition, a homeowners group consisting largely of Orthodox Jewish members, urged parents to object to diverting up to $2 million in federal stimulus money from the private schools to expand the preschool program, which serves public and private school pupils. The letter argues that the money should go toward all private school children through eighth grade.

“Especially in these very difficult economic times, where our parents and mosdos (private religious schools) are under tremendous financial pressure, it is unthinkable to divert any funds – federal, state or local – from our mosdos, who are struggling to survive,” the letter read.

The coalition said a petition is circulating among the private schools requesting that “no portion of these funds be set aside, targeted, segregated or otherwise limited to benefit only preschoolers.”

No representatives of the private schools could be reached. The petition and signatures on it were not available.

Proponents of the program say the current preschool, which serves about 200 children, is insufficient. With a long waiting list, it means many children arrive at kindergarten unprepared, they maintain.

“It’s a long year when you have 4-year-olds in kindergarten and they’re not ready,” said Carol Cousins, president of the Lakewood Education Association, the teachers union.

School Board Attorney Michael I. Inzelbuch said he has encountered interest from many private schools for the expansion.

“Over the last several months, numerous members of the nonpublic community have approached the administration to explore the utilization of Title I to expand the preschool,” he said.

The school board could vote on the proposal at its meeting tonight. Five companies specializing in child care submitted proposals to run the program: Catapult Learning; Special Children’s Center; Ready, Set, Grow; Step Ahead; and Tiny Tots.

Tiny Tots, the largest child care center in Lakewood that is already under contract with the district for preschool special education services, submitted the lowest one-year cost proposal at $900,000. The board will likely solicit new bids for the second year. The expansion will add about 120 children to the preschool roster the first year.

Board members either declined comment or could not be reached.

Of the $5.4 million in federal stimulus money the district is expecting, some $2 million will be set aside for the preschool program. About two-thirds of the remaining money is reserved for private schools, which educate up to 80 percent of the township student population.

But because federal money for nonpublic schools can be used only for elementary and secondary education, more public school money must be reserved for future funding of the preschool, said Inzelbuch, citing advice from national Title I experts.

The stimulus funds expire after two years, the district will have to decide whether to foot the bill or discontinue the program if no additional federal money can be found.

“Both Title I and stimulus monies should not create a larger tax burden on our already overburdened local taxpayers,” Chesky Seitler, coalition chairman, said in an e-mailed statement.

{APP/ Newscenter}


  1. 1. it seems that some schools are for this, also some askonim on behalf of the rabbonim
    2. if private schools make up 80% why are they getting only 66% of the funding????

  2. I am still not certain I understand the issue completely. However as avi k. commented “when the app takes your side, you know you’re on the wrong side…”

  3. Our Mosdos are getting $10 Million in Title I funds. The original amount was $6,000,000. The ARRA stimulus fund, injected an additional $5,900,000 over the next two years. Meaning, that every school has received an additional 60% of what they received in the past. Why 60%? Because the “third party contractor” of the present Title I services gets 35%. Some schools would like various services that they can spend the money on, others see this influx of funds as a way to jump start projects that communities nationwide have been looking to start. The original ARRA bulletin specifically mentions the use of funds for preschool programs.
    If you are concerned about taxes then the question remains as to what will happen to all the services that the schools are getting from this stimulus package. Who will pick up the tab for that? With regard to preschool, you will notice if you do your research, that our President has introduced a bill called Preschool expansion program. This is a bill to include 90% of preschool children in pre-school programs by the year 2014.
    It is further stated in the “Mosdos” letter that children in grades 2-5 need the services more, since their weaknesses are more noticeable. I believe that the reason why you would need these funds for this age group is based on the fact that some of these children were lacking skills that are taught in “proper” preschool settings with “real” curriculum.
    Secondly, the Mosdos cannot provide the same services at a lower cost, because Title I does not allow the” Mosdos” to provide these services independently. But you said a moment ago that you don’t need Preschool services. Now you want to provide it? I’m confused. Besides, if the schools would open up preschools, then every school would be able to receive services in their school through this program. It is actually part of this plan from what I understand, to fund existing preschools in “Mosdos”.
    The financial climate has nothing to do with you receiving any of this money. Not one penny of the stimulus fund is going into your pocket no matter which way you slice it. Money for service don’t go to you, it goes to line pockets of other vendors. Whatever else you are thinking of using it for doesn’t translate into fund raising dollars for your “Mosdos”.
    Best wishes for a Shana Tova Umesuka,
    Last but not least, when will we say “enough is enough”? We are watching children of Preschool age get swept under the rug. This doesn’t exist anywhere else in the frum community. In NY most children go to proper schools as well as in most other cities across the globe. Our children are being shortchanged by the shortsightedness of a few individuals who bait people in by claiming tax dollars will go up, by spreading misinformation regarding a logical and sensible solution to this ongoing problem.
    With highest respects to Morahs of existing playgroups, whom most of are doing a phenomenal job, we can’t keep quiet any longer, because if you were on this side of the desk listening to all the various problems that children develop from sanitary reasons to actual cases of neglect etc. you’re few dollars that might be at stake here, wouldn’t mean that much.
    I’d like to add, that Mr. Inzelbuch has put himself on the line time and again to make sure that NO CHILD is LEFT BEHIND and I envy his chelek in Olam Habah for all the hatred that has been sent his way.