Budget issues threaten unique Bellevue College courses for many parents

Parents say whittling down a program at Bellevue College down to just four classes a year means hundreds of parents will miss out on opportunities to attend courses teaching important skills.

If you ask Annika ZumBrunnen, there is an art to parenting: "What’s working, what’s not working, what can we do different."

ZumBrunnen is taking Bellevue College courses but it’s not for a specific degree, it’s just to become the best parent she can be.

Carrie Hong, a mother of four, has been taking unique parenting courses for the past decade. "It’s taught me a lot about positive discipline, specifics, you know child development," Hong said.

Parents say the college’s latest budget proposal could mean most of the parenting classes disappear.

"There were 44 classes that were going to be offered this fall. They were going to cut it down to 4; that’s basically barebones nothing," ZumBrunnen said.

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Parents say reducing offered classes to just four a year means hundreds of parents will miss out on opportunities to attend the program. They also worry about the impact it will have on several preschool co-ops in the area. 

The parenting program also partners with preschools to provide some funding and scholarships to families in need.

"It’s very unique, I don’t know anything like it," Teacher Kristen Hardisty said.

Hardisty is a teacher at Eastgate Cooperative Preschool, one of the places that could be impacted.

Hardisty says she works with families from all races and socioeconomic backgrounds. 

She says more institutions should provide similar parenting programs because she disagrees with society’s expectation that people should know how to parent right away.

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"Absolutely, we’ve been doing it wrong but this program has been doing it right for 55 years. That’s why it’s so difficult to see them pulling the funding," Hardisty said.

Bellevue College released the following statement in response to their proposed changes:

"Bellevue College offers many valuable programs that enrich our community, and Parent Education has earned a well-deserved reputation for serving parents and young children. We are in the process of developing a budget for next year which won’t be finalized until the Board of Trustees meets in June, and no sections of Parent Education for next year have been canceled yet.   

At the same time, the college faces an economic reality in which all programs and functions will need to increase efficiency to meet our budget. We are proactively seeking alternative funding to support Parent Education. If there are community members who would like to help, donations can be made to this program through the Bellevue College Foundation."

A final decision is expected by June 16.

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