Vermilion Parish School Board looks at charging tuition for Pre-K program

By: Nicole Rogers
The Vermilion Parish School Board held a committee of the whole board meeting on Tuesday night to discuss possibly charging parents to enroll their children in the pre-k program.

At the Nov. 29, 2010, education committee meeting, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Robert Rizzuto informed the board that the pre-k program would be $180,000 in the red by the end of the year. However, as of Tuesday night’s meeting, Rizzuto revealed a new estimated deficit of $200,000.

“We said if we’re going to keep this program, it’s going to have to be balanced,” board member Anthony Fontana said. “It had to pay for itself; no money out of the general fund.”

Three options were presented to the board: cut the program; continue the program as is with the $200,000 deficit, provided there are no more budget cuts; or implement a tuition at an estimated $400 per month/per student.

Out of the three options, Rizzuto recommended the third option of tuition.

According to Rizzuto, charging tuition would apply to those children not receiving free and reduced lunch at $400 a month for 10 months–from August to May–which adds up to $4,000 a year for each student in the program.

Although Rizzuto’s recommendation asked for $400 a month for each student, board member Ricky Broussard said he felt the parish would lose students if the board was to charge that much.

“I’ve been giving this a lot of thought,” Broussard said, “and at $400, we’re really going to decrease the number of kids we’re putting into this program. This is an investment into our future.”

Broussard made a motion to begin charging tuition for the pre-k program for the 2011-2012 school year, but to do so at $200 per month/per student. Board member Bill Searle seconded the motion.

Following a roll call vote, six board members (Ricky Broussard, Charles Campbell, Chris Gautreaux, Stacy Landy, Bubba LeBlanc and Bill Searle) voted in favor of the $200 tuition for the pre-k program. Fontana voted against the motion. Board member president Dexter Callahan was unable to attend Tuesday night’s meeting.

“You have people paying $400 minimum a month for day care,” Fontana said, “and we’re going to go and take taxpayers' money and run a deficit–knowing that we’re going to run a deficit and chances of it running even more? I’m not doing it.”

With a passing vote, the motion will be up for discussion at Thursday night's meeting at 6 p.m.

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