Early Learning Center Braces for Budget Cuts

Natalia Cooper

At this point the center’s future is unknown. On April 30, 2002, Dean Janey presented a proposal to the administration detailing possibilities for the center to become self-sufficient. That plan will include the layoffs of four teachers. One of those teachers has worked at the center for 14 years, and is one of the staff members with the least amount of seniority. “The plan says that we are going to reduce staff,” Dean Janey stated on April 25, “because there is no other way to do it within the short period of time they’re giving us.”

“There is no other magic way to come up with the amount of money that they want to cut from the budget,” Janey explained. If the above plan is not accepted the center will be phased out. “We can probably get along, barely, for about a year, based on the resources that we have, but after that, of course, we wouldn’t have money to operate, so therefore, the phaseout process has to begin. If that’s the case, it would have to begin fairly early, and by a year from now, at the end of the fiscal year, we would be closing the center.”

Chancellor Gora also discussed the matter with The Mass Media explaining that, “Dean Janey has been asked to prepare a budget that will demonstrate that the Early Learning Center is self-supporting, and it needs to be self-supporting by July 2003.” Gora said that the administration has been requesting budget information from the center for months. She also said that Dean Janey has a whole year to come up with a plan for the center, and to implement that plan. “I confirmed with both Dean Janey and Vice Chancellor MacKenzie yesterday [April 24] that we were all saying the same thing, and that was that a plan needs to be developed and implemented by July 2003.”

Gora insisted that the loss of four teachers at the center to layoffs is not something that she has recommended or mandated.” She also insisted that when she met with Dean Janey on April 24 shortly following the protest Janey did not mention the layoffs of the teachers. Gora also said that Dean Janey did not tell her about the staff layoffs. Gora said that she is willing to “meet with the parents if they schedule a meeting with [her].” But insisted, “I will not meet with a group that tries to take over my office.”

“I wasn’t quite sure what the miscommunication was,” explained Gora, “but I could tell from their upset, from their anger, that what I thought was the situation was not what they thought the situation was.” Gora explained that she doesn’t know where the April deadline is coming from, and restated the charge for the ELC to become self-supporting by July 2003.

Gora also recalled how, at the on-campus rally to save UMass, two parents approached her, just before she spoke. Gora admitted that she was not very responsive. “If I had realized what was in their head, then I would’ve spent more time talking to them,” she said. Gora admitted that, since she arrived at UMass in Fall 2001, she hasn’t visited the ELC. “I haven’t gotten to it just because I’m doing a lot of other things,” she said, “But I’m happy to go the center.”

“It may be that some of the children that are subsidized are part of the UMass people, but that’s sort of irrelevant to the situation,” Gora said.

Another factor the ELC has to deal with is that they do not currently have a director. “We are in the process of hiring a director,” Janey explained, “We have been given the approval to do that so we are moving forward with that process. The search for a new director was one of the topics dicussed at the April 24 emergency meeting. The current interim director, Sandra Bispham-Parkin expressed concern at that meeting that the pool of applicants would be significantly narrower due to the budget cut.