Butler Community College to shut down EduCare Learning Lab

Charles Chaney
Butler Community College is shutting down the EduCare Learning Lab, which is used for child care and citizens of El Dorado. The decision was made May 28.

During a special monthly meeting of the Butler Community College Board of Trustees, the board went into executive session and came out with the decision to cut the EduCare program.

The budgetary reasons and COVID-19 are both stated as why the Board of Trustees chose to close the EduCare. The school still fits the bill for EduCare, despite being a non-profit. If COVID-19 was to flare up in the state and the schools are forced to close again, EduCare would close once again, too.

“As we begin thinking about fall and how to ensure our campus is safe, we have the ability to move courses and work to a remote format if COVID-19 reappears this coming winter,” Christy Streeter Dean of Health, Education and Public Services said in an email that went out to parents. “It is not fair to our families or staff to move into the unknown and have to close EduCare each time COVID-19 resurfaces. This type of disruption is difficult for everyone but most especially for our youngest learners.”

The decision was made during a special board meeting and was made available on Zoom for citizens and students to watch, which put them in compliance with Kansas Open Meetings Act. When the board went into executive session for “non-elected personnel” reasons, the decision was made to cut the program.

Currently, the Zoom meeting and notes are not available on the school’s website page for all previous meetings.

The EduCare program gave the students an opportunity to get hands-on experience working in childcare. The educational development for students practicing their degrees, while providing a day care service to those who are in need at the school and within El Dorado.

It is often a five-star facility, which is rated by the Kansas Quality Rating Improvement System, the highest rating you can receive.

According to the 2019 financial audit, the EduCare program operates with approximately 0.7 percent of the operating budget for the school, which has an operating revenue of approximately $51 million. According to the audit, EduCare had a revenue of $474,111 and expenses of $476,166.

“This current budget year it was anticipated the college would need to support operations with $250,000,” the school said in a statement. “The annual tuition revenue paid by families does not cover the personnel, meal costs, and non-personnel items thus the needed funding from the college’s operational budget. In an effort to address the expected overall college revenue loss for next year, college leadership had to make the very difficult decision to step away from the childcare center aspect of business.”

There are public questions on whether or not the school violated KOMA by going into executive session to cut such a program. The decision made was given as “non-elected personnel,” which is covered under the 14 different reasons a board could enter into executive session.

Where the questions arise is the “non-elected personnel” and the decision to close the program are one in the same. Despite the report of the sexual abuse charges against former Assistant Director Brent Martin, the school refutes the executive session was about him.

According to multiple people who watched the meeting, the decision was made behind closed doors when they talked about “non-elected personnel,” which leads to the questioning of the KOMA violation.

The EduCare program was one of the first community college programs in the state of Kansas. Until 2013, when Hutchinson implemented theirs. Now, a majority of the state’s community colleges support a program similar.

“It is unfortunate, though confidentiality was requested of the board, that the information was shared publicly before the college could communicate with the 98 families and 24 employees directly impacted by the decision,” the school said. “These individuals have been communicated with today as originally presented to the board.”