The Oregon Department of Education’s Preschool Promise Program has given nearly $90 million in grants to early learning facilities. Many of these facilities are under-enrolled, including some with fewer than 10 students, one with a single student, and another with no students.
Oregon’s Preschool Promise program was launched in 2016 to provide publicly-funded preschool for 3-4 year-olds for families at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or $53,000 for a family of four. It assigns “slots” to 268 select childcare providers — each one representing one student and being worth approximately $14,000 per year. By comparison in-state tuition and fees to attend the University of Oregon is $14,420.
The program has suffered from well-below expected enrollment, but still spent the money: $90 million for school years through February 2021 and February 2022.
The overspending in under-enrolled schools has more than a few examples, according to Fox News.
One such school, Village Childcare was paid $600,000 for 33 preschool slots in 2020-2021, and 20 preschoolers in 2021-2022. But the center reported fewer than ten students enrolled in the program during that time, Fox News reported.
All Families Welcome was paid to fill 18 slots in 2020-2021, but had no students enrolled. In 2021-2022, just one student was enrolled. Yet the center was paid over half a million dollars — $300,000 one year, and more than $220,000 the next year, Fox News reported.
Neighborhood House was awarded 36 slots both years, but had fewer than 10 students enrolled. They were awarded $448,000 in the 2020-2021 school year, and $370,000 in the 2021-2022 school year.
All awarded facilities were paid for expected, not actual, enrollment. Why no cutback to match attendees?
An Oregon Department of Education spokesperson told Fox News that the Preschool Promise funding is mostly for fixed costs, including staffing, utilities and facilities.
Centers “require that programs be ready to serve eligible families as soon as they are referred, which means programs must be prepared at all times to serve the full number of funded slots,” the spokesperson said.
In the midst of these lower-than-expected numbers, the Early Learning Division said it’s “examining protocols to review enrollment and direct programs to reduce operations until enrollment increases.”
The #WasteOfTheDay is brought to you by the forensic auditors at OpenTheBooks.com. This article originally appeared on RealClearPolicy.