Originally created 07/03/97

Eight Ga. child-care centers lose pre-k funding



ATLANTA (AP) - Eight Georgia child-care centers, including one in Augusta, lost more than $1 million in funding from the state' pre-kindergarten program because they did not fix problems such as giving false information or using poor equipment.

Although it means losing $166,827 annually in Georgia lottery funds, the owner of the Augusta center removed from the program said he doesn't mind the change.

"It's actually a relief," said Raymond Oglesby, owner of Kids Express Childcare and Preschool on Deans Bridge Road. "We were already considering not having it from the lottery next year."

Mr. Oglesby will offer one pre-kindergarten class next fall, but will use a different curriculum than the state-mandated High Scope classes funded by the lottery, which he said parents hadn't liked. The center now serves 125 children of varying ages.

Georgia's pre-kindergarten program pays for an early education for 60,546 4-year-olds across the state. The Office of School Readiness stepped up inspections of pre-k centers during 1996-97. The office put 75 of the state's 1,500 pre-k centers on probation.

The eight private centers failed to correct problems such as giving false information about students they cared for or programs they provided. Some had decrepit playground equipment, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Wednesday. The newspaper obtained the names of the centers through the state's Open Records Act.

Kids Express Childcare and Preschool was removed for improperly classifying nine children as needing extra money for family services, said Pam Shapiro, director of the state pre-kindergarten program.

Children are allotted $625 extra if they come from low-income families that need basic social services, such as housing or food stamps, Ms. Shapiro said. That means Kids Express Childcare and Preschool received $5,625 more than it should have from the state.

"The mistakes were made by them (parents) and us," Mr. Oglesby said. "Parents are the ones who fill out the forms...so you go by that."

Mike Vollmer, the office director, said he "specifically tried to make the rules and regulations as easy to understand as possible, to make the private sector more willing to work with the state."

Attorney Mike Harrison said losing the pre-k funding will put his client, Myra Azcuy, owner of Billy and Alex's Playschool Inc. of Decatur, out of business.

Harrison said the office's regulations are so general that centers are unable to determine what they're doing wrong.

"We were never notified of any problem until we got the probation letter," said Dometrice Scandrick, owner of A New World Academy in Decatur.

She and co-owner Michael Scandrick said they replaced two of their four teachers and called the charges unjust and unfair.

Robert Levin, owner of Wonderful World of Children in Atlanta, said the state's pre-k rules don't allow for different teaching styles, requiring all teachers to stick with one curriculum.

Vollmer said the rest of the state's 1,492 centers managed to comply with the regulations.

"The overall emphasis this year is quality," said Vollmer. "We made no bones about it with anyone. For anyone to say we don't have an opportunity to rectify problems is a downright outrageous statement."

Staff Writer Kelly Daniel contributed to this article.