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Lake Land faculty pitches to keep child care lab

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013 11:12 a.m. CDT

MATTOON (MCT) — Representatives from the Lake Land College faculty association attended Monday's board of trustees meeting to present an alternative course to the college's decision to find a third-party vendor for the school's child care lab.\

In August, the trustees voted to fund the lab through Dec. 31 and agreed to look for a third-party vendor to provide the same service beginning Jan. 1.

"Due to the college's financial position in recent years, the college has been re-evaluating budgets in search of operational efficiencies," a news release from the college said. "As part of the process, the Child Care Lab cost center was evaluated over the course of about 18 months."

On Monday, Gary Powers, radio/TV and speech communication instructor and member of the child care lab task force that helped with the 18-month research, spoke on behalf of the 14 faculty members and 18 basketball team members who attended the meeting in support of keeping the child care lab operation in-house. Powers said the faculty association agrees it's in the best interest of the college and its students that the lab operate under the college and not a third-party provider.

"As many of you are aware, the lab was created as an educational tool that still exists today here at Lake Land," Powers said.

He compared the lab to the dental hygiene and cosmetology labs on campus that offer hands-on models that solidify the information taught in the classroom.

Students "utilize this lab extensively, and they use it for a laboratory experience," Powers said. "The lab as it exists now is an extremely vital and beneficial service and source of pride for our employees but, more particularly, our students here on campus."

He said that keeping Lake Land employees in charge of the lab holds the facility accountable. He explained the role of the task force, which he said produced a subsidy-reducing plan that was approved by the trustees. However, now that the task force members believe they weren't included -- as outlined in the trustee-approved plan -- with the administration's call to select a third-party vendor, they've created a second plan.

"While we understand that budgets are tight in the current crisis in the state of Illinois, we also understand that when an institution of higher learning becomes more concerned with the bottom line without including and communicating all key players in the equation, a slippery slope is created where student programs can be jeopardized," Powers said.

Stephanie Medley-Rath, sociology instructor and member of the task force, presented the new proposal to reduce the college's subsidy.

"We feel compelled to fulfill our obligation to reach a subsidy reduction goal of $40,000," Medley-Rath explained.

The proposal would drop a support staff member from a full-time position to a part-time position, eliminate a part-time position and reduce supply funds, which would call upon parents of the children to donate supplies.

The total subsidy would be decreased to $41,155.45. Medley-Rath said the $40,000 goal could be reached with an enrollment increase, or the task force agreed to spearhead fundraising.

"While we initially considered these cost-saving measures, we did not propose these cuts to salaries and wages initially, but we are now prepared to make these tough decisions in order to keep the child care lab operating under Lake Land College," she said.

The board had no discussion regarding the lab following the presentation.

(c)2013 the Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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