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Another non-profit falls prey to the ‘Moran Crusade’

Written by on Friday, June 14, 2024

Sarasota County defunds a major childcare provider.

By Tyler Oldano

Original Air Date: June 14, 2024

Host: Childcare is expensive. According to Care.com, two-thirds of America’s workers spend 20% of their income or more on childcare, and this number has been on the rise in recent years. Various government-supported non-profits provide affordable options to parents, but last week, the Sarasota County Commission voted to defund a key provider they’ve supported for the last 20 years. WSLR’s Tyler Oldano tells us what led to this decision and the impacts the drop in funding could have.

Mike Moran: All those in favor say aye … all those opposed … the motion passes, 4-to-1.

Tyler Oldano: That was the vote from a recent county commission budget meeting that cut funding from the Early Learning Coalition, or ELC. They’re a non-profit that looks to provide affordable early education and childcare across Sarasota County. The commission’s complete cut of county funding for  the ELC is  a decision that their CEO Janet Kahn says, only hurts those living in the county.

Janet Kahn: I am not counting on this funding, my families are counting on this funding. None of this funding goes into operations, it doesn’t fund me, it doesn’t fund my staff.

TO: Kahn says that access to affordable quality childcare and early learning has been a growing issue for the past few years. Childcare can be too expensive for many people, and taxing on single parent households. Women’s Resource Center CEO Ashley Brown says, however, that the impacts go beyond just the individual.

Ashley Brown: There’s the economic impact of it for businesses in our community when employees don’t have access to childcare, have sick children or have to stay home, there’s an inconsistency with the workforce. The Florida chamber published a study about the economic impact of childcare and it was five billion…with a B.

TO: Kahn says that the ELC looks to help solve this problem by helping connect those who’re looking for affordable childcare with options, and by ensuring local childcare groups are properly trained and staffed. All of that relies on government funding, which as of last week has been severely cut.  The decision to cut the ELC’s funding was something the county commissioners made of their own accord, going against the recommendations of their advisory council.

Janet Kahn

Commissioner Moran single-handedly overhauled the county’s advisory councils last year. They’re a group set up by the commission and staffed with volunteer professionals and community members  to help decide who does and doesn’t get funding. During the discussion however, Moran said he made some adjustments to the Advisory Council’s list and took out those who he felt were ineligible for funding, including the ELC. The ELC applied under a category of programs to improve  the county’s safety, but some commissioners seemingly disagreed and voted to cut the funding, 4 to 1. Commissioner Mark Smith was the only dissenting vote. He said this to his fellow commissioners.

Mark Smith: I believe it is a vital program that’s very successful, and, it does fall under safety, much like, a few of the other agencies and programs that we have, on the board.

TO: The commissioners didn’t elaborate on why exactly the ELC wasn’t eligible for funding other than it did not   impact county safety. It’s something Brown says isn’t true.

AB: When you’re making a decision to put your child in the hands of whether its a school, whether it’s a program, whether it’s a babysitter, you want to make sure you’re putting them in a place that’s safe, that’s credentialed, and qualified. That’s a big part of who they partner with

TO: At the meeting, Kahn added that if early education shouldn’t get county funding, then why did commissioners choose to fund other programs that are closely linked to childcare. She says that the YMCA and Children First’s head start program both receive county funding while the ELC was denied.

This isn’t the first time the county commissioners tried to cut the ELC’s funding. Last October, commissioners passed a motion that was similar to the one they passed last week , greatly reducing funding for the ELC and other non-profits into the next year. They took back their cuts after a public outcry a month later. One of the people who spoke out against the cuts last fall was a Republican state representative. Congresswoman Fiona McFarland, who represents much of Sarasota County, asked commissioners last year to continue their support.

Fiona McFarland: So, whether you’re doing it for the kids to get them ready for kindergarten, or you’re doing it for the parents to get them in the workforce, or you’re just doing it because it makes good financial sense because we’re going to match it at the state level, I urge you to do so.

TO: Mike Moran in specific was critical of the program saying that it was quote “an ineligible expense for the Sarasota County taxpayer”. Moran, who is running for tax collector in the next election, has said that he wants childcare non-profits to move away from government funding, but Brown says that it’s simply not feasible.

AB: I think it is unrealistic to expect philanthropy to fill in the gaps of budget cuts, there’s just not enough philanthropy to go around

TO: The question remains, how will this loss of funding impact the ELC and their work. Their CEO says that due to the commissioners’ decision, the ELC has lost not only their county funding, but their state match as well, losing over a million dollars total in support. She says that it would reduce the number  of people the ELC could help.

JK: Out of 11 hundred or twelve hundred families we serve on a monthly basis, three hundred of those families are served with those dollars. So as of October first, we would not be able to serve any of those families.

TO: Reporting in Sarasota, Tyler Oldano, WSLR.


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