HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Under Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s latest guidance, cities and counties can decide if child care is an “essential” business.
The City of Austin and Hays County have decided it is.
But the Texas Department of Health and Human Services reports thousands of daycare facilities have shut down since the COVID-19 outbreak began.
And many are still asking families to cough up tuition.
That’s the crux of a particular problem in Hays County, where the school district operates seven childcare facilities for its employees.
“Right now, there are no good options,” says Hays CISD spokesperson Tim Savoy.
The facilities provide 234 seats.
“It’s basically in-school daycare centers to help employees who have children who aren’t old enough yet to be in school,” Savoy says.
And they operate like other, private daycares, he says — they are self-funded rather than funded by taxpayer dollars.
Right now, those programs are closed — along with schools — but parents still saw a deduction in their paychecks.
Savoy says that money is for the 140 school days already completed and a portion of May’s paycheck will also deduct for those completed days.
But for the 45 days left in the employees’ school year, that’s where it gets tricky.
“If we were to stop the tuition payments and effectively shut the program down, we’re afraid we might not be able to restart it again and it would become a casualty of the coronavirus,” Savoy says.
Some of these parents are seeing $650 cut from their paychecks, he says.
“I understand teachers don’t want to be charged for a service that they’re not getting it in its entirety and we also have to look long term on the benefit because it is completely funded by those tuition payments,” Savoy says.
Hays CISD is allowing parents to withdraw their children from daycares in order to avoid tuition, but that would put them on the waiting list to get back in once normal operations resume.
A spokeperson says that waiting list is usually about 50 to 60 families per year.
If too many families pull out, Savoy says the district might have to dissolve the program, anyway.