Columbia County Pre-K program in jeopardy

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April 11, 2007

COLUMBIA CTY, Ga.---All good things must come to an end, and that may be the case if the Columbia County school board votes to do away with the Pre-K program.

Georgia's Pre-K program started in 1993. At that time, Columbia County was given 320 slots, but since then, the county's population has grown considerably. The number of slots has remained the same, and that's one of the reasons School Board Chair Regina Buccafusco says it might be time to let go of the program.

"Many of these counties that are growing counties as ours in the state of Georgia have opted to not include the Pre-K in their school system,” she said. "In the beginning, when it was given to the public school system, it was kind of an uproar from the private sector saying we're infringing on their rights to earn money, so that's why no more seats were ever given to the public system.”

And Buccafusco added that the program, funded by the state, actually still costs the county money.

"We're very short of classroom space, we're funded only a certain amount for the teacher, what the state gives us and we have to fund the rest to pay our county supplement so we pay extra money for this program really.”

Superintendent Tommy Price agrees that it might be best for private daycares to handle the influx, mainly because his classrooms are full to the rim.

"We're handling only 320 slots now. The private sector is probably more able to fully accommodate this program,” he said.

Even if the board votes to dismiss the program, approval has to be given first.

"Assuring our community that we're not going to lose slots and that they'll still be made available to you, but I'll need commitment from the Bright Start office which governs the Pre-K Program," Price said.

"It’s a great program for sure, but in the private sector they're the same certified teachers, it’s the same exact curriculum, so I think that if the private sector can handle it, let them handle it and free up some of our classrooms," Buccafusco said.

On Friday the board will have a special meeting to report the finding of the investigation on the Pre-K lottery. Board members say that will not affect their decision whether to keep the program or not.

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