Child-care center won't get $3 million from state

CHEYENNE -- Supporters of a publicly funded child-care center got a quick no Thursday morning from the state's top officials.

The disappointed members of the Laramie County Early Education and Development Joint Powers Board said afterward that they had to regroup, but their quest for quality child care would continue.

"It's not over. There's still a need in the community, and we want to fill that need," said board member Rich Wiederspahn.

The non-profit planned to run a center with expanded hours for shift workers and to offer an accredited education program.

The Wyoming Business Council board had already turned down the $3 million request to build the Laramie County Early Childhood Education Center in the Cheyenne Business Parkway in east Cheyenne. The State Loan and Investment Board had the final vote.

This was the second time SLIB considered this request. This spring, SLIB sent it back to the Business Council, asking it to review current demand for child care. Local providers said it would hurt their businesses.

Thursday's 4-1 vote was in keeping with the Wyoming Business Council's new recommendation, which was based on a revised study that showed there was less need for child care.

Jim McBride, state superintendent of public instruction, was the lone vote in support of the project.

Supporters of the Laramie County Early Childhood Education Center showed up, ready to testify. But Gov. Dave Freudenthal polled the other SLIB members and said they would skip having a public hearing.

They all received plenty of information, he said.

"Everyone's made up their mind," Freudenthal said. "There's no sense on having a fourth hearing on this matter."

Freudenthal said Wednesday it broke his heart to not award the grant because he believes in early childhood education.

But the Business Council's revised study shows there are more slots at Cheyenne day-care centers than children -- which is contrary to the intent of the Business Ready Communities Grant.

Lisa Romsa, owner and director of Diamonds in the Rough, was an outspoken opponent of the grant.

However, Romsa said she hoped that the issue of expanding quality child care would not disappear with this grant request -- in the past six years, she said, people see child-care providers as "more than babysitters."

This time, she'd like to see proponents work with current providers -- for instance, to help offset accreditation costs.

"Everyone needs to still work and come up with solutions," Romsa said. "But putting all the eggs in one facility does not accomplish that goal."

Cheyenne City Councilwoman Georgia Broyles said she was set to urge SLIB to look at funding pre-kindergarten education. Wyoming is one of five states that does not do this, she said.

For instance, the state could oversee a curriculum available to day-care providers n those "who wish to pursue that."

Credit: Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, Cheyenne