Butler Community College to shut down EduCare Learning Lab

Charles Chaney
Butler Community College is shutting down the EduCare Learning Lab, which is used for child care and citizens of El Dorado. The decision was made May 28.

EL DORADO—During a special meeting May 28, the Butler Community College Board of Trustees went into executive session during an online Zoom meeting and came out with the decision to cut the school’s EduCare program.

The EduCare program gave BCC students an opportunity to get hands-on experience working in childcare. The educational development for students practicing their degrees, while providing a day care service to those who are in need at the school and within El Dorado.

Citing budgetary reasons and COVID-19 concerns, the board of trustees chose to close the EduCare even though the school still fits the bill for EduCare.

“As we begin thinking about fall and how to ensure our campus is safe, we have the ability to move courses and work to a remote format if COVID-19 reappears this coming winter,” said Christy Streeter, Dean of Health, Education and Public Services at BCC, in an email that went out to parents. “It is not fair to our families or staff to move into the unknown and have to close EduCare each time COVID-19 resurfaces. This type of disruption is difficult for everyone but most especially for our youngest learners.”

The decision was made during a special board meeting available on Zoom for citizens and students to watch, which put the trustees in compliance with Kansas Open Meetings Act. However, that Zoom meeting and notes are not available on the school’s website page, along with all previous meetings.

According to the 2019 financial audit, the EduCare program operates with approximately 0.7 percent of the operating budget for the school, which has an operating revenue of approximately $51 million. According to the audit, EduCare had a revenue of $474,111 and expenses of $476,166.

There are public questions on whether or not the school violated KOMA by going into executive session to cut such a program. The decision made was given as “non-elected personnel,” which is covered under the 14 different reasons a board could enter into executive session.

Where the questions arise is the “non-elected personnel” and the decision to close the program are one in the same. Despite the report of the sexual abuse charges against former Assistant Director Brent Martin, the school refutes the executive session was about him.

According to multiple people who watched the meeting, the decision was made behind closed doors when they talked about “non-elected personnel,” which leads to the questioning of the KOMA violation.

The EduCare program was one of the first community college programs in the state of Kansas. Until 2013, when Hutchinson implemented theirs. Now, a majority of the state’s community colleges support a program similar.

“It is unfortunate, though confidentiality was requested of the board, that the information was shared publicly before the college could communicate with the 98 families and 24 employees directly impacted by the decision,” the school said. “These individuals have been communicated with today as originally presented to the board.”