45 Low-Income Students Displaced After Funding Revoked, Administrative Violations to Blame
SPRING HILL – There are plenty of daycare horror stories making headlines around the country, but when a daycare is doing everything right and an administrative technicality forces dozens of low-income families to leave and pay higher rates, parents and daycare operators want to know why.
That’s exactly what happened to 45 low-income students at Little Rascals Daycare on Bay Drive, after clerical and administrative policy violations resulted in the termination of funding through Pasco Hernando Early Learning Coalition.
The daycare’s owner, Vincenza “Jeannie” Neve says the problems started over a misunderstanding with sign-in/sign-out procedures, a Character Development Plan, and the Rilya Wilson Act, which obligates parents to provide a note to caregivers after seven absences.
A letter sent to Jeannie on September 7th gave notice that she had failed to meet all the requirements and would be losing her Early Learning Coalition funding (ELC). The letter states that Jeannie was supposed to implement a Character Development Program. Jeannie submitted Funshine Online but the program was not accepted. ELC Officials say Jeannie failed to keep proper records with the sign-in sheet because some parents wouldn’t sign their full name. Jeannie says it’s nearly impossible to watch how every parent signs their name as they come and go during busy times of the day. Lastly, paths crossed between submitting a child’s absentee note to the ELC, which led to violating the Rilya Wilson Act.
Parents who could barely afford to make ends meet will now be forced to pay more than double in daycare costs every week.
Jeannie uses a sliding scale, which for some families is as low as $3 per day and that includes meals. Other daycares will charge a parent fee of $30 per week, in addition to much higher daily rates, and they don’t include meals.
But the lower cost is just one reason why most parents don’t want to remove their children from of Jeannie’s daycare.
We visited the daycare last week and spoke to parents who say they love how Jeannie treats their children, especially those with special needs. Jeannie, who still works full-time at the age of 70, has worked with children all of her adult life. She says most daycare workers have a hard time dealing with special needs children and in many cases they won’t accept them. Jeannie says she loves all children and welcomes special needs children with open arms.
Deante Reese says his 4-year-old daughter has been with Jeannie since she was born and that his daughter doesn’t want to go. “I’m trying to have faith that I won’t have to take my daughter to another school,” said Reese.
We spoke to ELC representative Betsy Kier who said “we tried working with Jeannie for over two years to correct the problems.” Kier confirmed the violations and said that Jeannie could file a grievance and select committee will determine the final outcome.
We reached out to two board members, County Commissioner Diane Rowden, and Hernando County School Board Superintendent Dr. Lori Romano. Rowden said she would look into the situation but that she wasn’t sure if she would be on the committee. HSCB Spokesperson Karen Jordan spoke on behalf of Dr. Romano and said “The School Readiness contract for the contractor indicated has been cancelled for cause. In response to the contractor’s request, a Due Process hearing will be convened at a date to be determined, within the next 45 calendar days.” She went on to say “While Dr. Romano is a mandated member of the Coalition’s Board of Directors; Dr. Romano is not a member of the Hearing Review Committee.”
On September 13th Jeannie submitted her grievance letter to ELC Executive Director, James Farrelly, outlining a plan to correct the violations and pleading for reinstatement.
In the meantime, Jeannie is left with just 6 self-paying students, while the families of 45 displaced students struggle to find affordable daycare service.
CORRECTION: 9/20/2016, 10:05 a.m. – Information previously posted about Mark Fischer was in error. It has since been removed.
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