Budget not child’s play

The University Child Development Center, located in University United Methodist Church at 1621 College Ave., is under evaluation from the Washburn Student Government Association this year after several questions arose regarding how student activity fee money is being spent.

The UCD currently enjoys an automatically-allocated $30,000 per year from WSGA to help fund the 41-child center, in comparison with the maximum of $3,000 WSGA is allowed to allocate per student organization each year. Student money doesn’t make up a majority of the center’s income. About eight percent of the total budget is student activity fee money.

“It is important to recognize that our job as members of WSGA is to serve the students of Washburn to the best of our ability,” said Caley Onek, WSGA president. “Washburn has a diverse body of students and we are proud of that. However, each student deserves fair opportunity to reap the benefits of the student activity fee. We will be looking into this matter further. We need to get all of the facts and gather as much student feedback as possible before any decisions are made.”

This year, WSGA will have two seats on the center’s board, allowing it insight into the expenditures and how the student activity fee is being spent to benefit students. Onek said WSGA will be learning more about the center during the course of the year, and she wants to make sure more students can benefit from the program.

“One of our biggest responsibilities is to make sure we are allocating the student activity fee the best way possible,” said Onek. “We do feel the university childcare is a good program for our students. Therefore, we give them a large sum of money for their operations and have done so for several years. But it is also our job to make sure that we are serving the most students with each dollar allocated, so we will be looking into all of our programs paid for by the student activity fee this year, as is our job constitutionally.”

Former WSGA senator Will Lawrence, who ran for WSGA president in 2009 and listed childcare as one of his main concerns, is no stranger to the current system. Lawrence was appointed chair of the Childcare Task Force by WSGA in fall 2008 when student government became curious about how money was being spent.

“The big thing was just looking at funding and how the money spread out. Especially looking at how much was being spent per child over there as far as how much our funding covered WU students money,” said Lawrence. “We compared the amount of kids there and the amount of funding used with other universities as well to see how we compare.”

Lawrence said the task force compared the UCD with other university childcare systems to get a feel for how they stacked up. For reference, he said Emporia State housed roughly twice as many children and used roughly the same amount of funds.

“We did not compare well with most schools, but of course we do not have a childcare facility strictly for WU students, we just give money so they will take in WU students children,” said Lawrence.

During his 2009 presidential campaign, Lawrence and his running mate, Charity Hockman, set goals of having Washburn host its own childcare facility, one that could hold 140 children to meet the needs of the students.

“Ideally we wanted to look at moving the facility on to campus and making it completely operated by Washburn,” said Lawrence. “One of the biggest expenses in that facility is payroll. If Washburn took control of the facility. then they would become part of WU’s payroll, which would also give the full time employees benefits which they currently do not receive. This would reduce the operating expenses of the facility and give more money to be used for the children.”

Onek, who ran as Garrett Love’s vice presidential running mate in the 2009 election and unopposed as the presidential nominee in the 2010 election, has never had childcare reform on her political platform. She said the idea of having a facility on campus raises a lot of economical concerns for the university.

“This is not an objective on Vice President Mullin’s and my agendas, but it is always nice to hear what the students feel we need on campus,” said Onek. “If this is something the students truly believe we need, then we could pursue this further. At this point, no, I don’t think this[an on campus facility] should be a high priority as far as capital expenditures go. Another question would be even if we do build a brand new facility for childcare, how many students would that entity be serving and is the benefit of it worth the cost of the new building?”

Lawrence said the idea was “extremely unfavorable” by the administration when he proposed changes, mainly because of budgets and finances at the time. He said he has no reason to believe the attitude of the administration has changed, but also pointed out that it never hurts to ask and that the more attention the subject gets, the more likely it is that change could happen.

“There still needs to be more research done, which hasn’t been done, because Love-Onek never reappointed the task force. So, when my senate term was up, the task force expired and no further research was ever done on it,” said Lawrence.