Education

Wake early education program facing possible budget cuts

Posted April 1, 2010 10:17 a.m. EDT
Updated April 1, 2010 12:09 p.m. EDT

— Wake County public schools’ proposed budget cuts could impact an early education program that's open to every family in the county.

Aylett Colston is one of many parents who've spoken and written to school board members to save Project Enlightenment, an intervention program for children ages birth through Kindergarten.

More than 60 staff members provide classroom consultations, family counseling, developmental screening, parent education and training for early childhood professionals, according to the program’s Web site.

“We’re fighting because we know how important it is, and we feel like it would be morally irresponsible not to do anything for the children coming after us,” said Colston, whose 5-year-old autistic son, Alexander Thomas, is in the program.

Project Enlightenment, at 501 S. Boylan Ave. in Raleigh, is part of the Wake school system’s Central Services, which has been targeted for budget cuts.

“Without Project Enlightenment, a lot of our kids would really be struggling, and all of our families would really be struggling,” Colston said.

In response to the superintendent's 2010-11 proposed budget, Wake school board member Carolyn Morrison asked what impact the proposed cuts could have on Project Enlightenment.

School staff responded and mentioned several possible cuts to the program, which has a $3.5 million operating budget:

  • $30,700: total non-personnel reduction
  • $8,700: elimination of a contract with a speech language pathologist. The school system could bring this service under special education services.
  • $6,500: reduction in Web site and database maintenance and upgrades contract.
  • $6,000: reduction in purchase of new books and computers. "Current inventory is sufficient."
  • $4,000: elimination of printing a brochure
  • $3,000: reduction in dollars to replace furniture
  • $2,500: reduction in professional development
  • elimination of vacant positions and reduction in force of filled positions

During the 2008-09 school year, the center served 2,100 children, 3,300 parents and 2,700 teachers. Learn more about the program's facts and figures.

The program began in 1969 with federal funding. During the past 40 years, the Wake school system has financially supported the program's growth. Today, 70 percent of the program's funding comes from the school system, and the remainder comes from grants.

“Any position we lose will mean that there will be children and families we won’t be able to serve,” said Project Enlightenment Director Cynthia Chamblee.