Mat-Su mayor vetoes money for preschool program he calls 'glorified day care'

Zaz Hollander

The Mat-Su mayor has vetoed a budget amendment that would give the borough school district $350,000, saying the preschool program it targets is regarded as "glorified day care."

The money, while not specifically earmarked for the purpose, was sponsored by Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly member Matthew Beck to supplement a grant that pays for a districtwide preschool program. The Assembly approved it last week as part of the borough's more than $403 million budget for the next fiscal year.

Mayor Larry DeVilbiss, in a letter Friday announcing his veto, said the district didn't ask for the funds, which he called "a lot of money," though less than he expected the district to ask for next budget cycle.

Mat-Su schools Superintendent Deena Paramo told DeVilbiss the district hopes the state will extend funding to include voluntary preschool programs. DeVilbiss in his letter says he doesn't believe the Legislature will approve such funding, which is championed by "the far left in the minority caucus. It is a service that can (be) and is delivered by the private sector much more efficiently."

The mayor made no secret of his feelings about publicly funded preschool during his days on the Mat-Su School Board. "Public school is no place for 4-year-old kids," he says in his letter. "They should be learning from their parents at that age."

DeVilbiss also acknowledged statistics showing better achievement for preschoolers when they move into kindergarten but said the statistical advantage disappears a few grades later.

The Assembly will take up the veto at a regular meeting that starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Assembly Chambers at borough hall, 350 E. Dahlia Ave. in Palmer. It takes five Assembly votes to override a mayoral veto.