Williamson Co. pre-K classes closing due to state funding

Williamson Co. pre-K classes closing due to state funding

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, IL (KFVS) - Hundreds of families across Williamson County now have to scramble to find pre-K classes for their kids.

The county's pre-K program is just the latest to fall victim to the state's budget crisis.

Williamson County Pre-K Program Coordinator Michelle Baxter said she has no choice but to close down if the state doesn't pay what it owes.

"What is going to happen to these kids...If I don't get 1.3 million, we cannot open our doors, we shut down services for 600 children and their families that depend on us on a daily basis and we lose staff jobs – 48 staff members."

A father of three, Jason Tanner and his family rely on the program. Tanner said he planned for his son Reese, who has special needs, to attend in the fall.

"What we would have to do is look for a private situation where he could be in a pre-K program or some sort of child care program where they would also have teaching moments included," explained Tanner.

"We serve the most needy and at-risk children, so parents are going to have the resources to pay for daycare because pre-K is a free service and it is grant funded through the early childhood block grant," Baxter said.

Heartland daycare centers with pre-school programs average price per month is $560 per month, per child.

"It impacts a lot of different areas, it's not just the kids, but it impacts the entire family," said Tanner.

Now come this fall, many of the pre-K classrooms in Williamson County will be empty, and an empty classroom was not what Baxter wants to see, so she's not giving up.

"I call on the daily basis to see what the status is, to beg for help, to help our county and our children," Baxter said. "Because without it, it's going to be very devastating."

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