Breaking News: Snohomish County Seeks To Prevent ELC’s Closure


Calvin Emerson

Snohomish County tries to ensure that the ELC will not be closed.

Snohomish County has offered to provide funding to the Early Learning Center, according to recently uncovered letters sent to both former president Daria Willis and current acting president Joseph Whalen. In these letters, top officials and executives state their desire to keep the ELC open, and are willing to prove it through an increase in taxpayer dollars to the college.

The first letter, sent to Dr. Willis on Dec. 10 of 2021, was written by Snohomish County’s Executive Director, Lacey Harper. In the letter, Harper reasserts a commitment by the county to invest significantly in childcare, and she states that additional funding has been appropriated to support EvCC going into the 2022’-2023’ fiscal year.

Snohomish County has been trying to communicate with EvCC regarding ELC funding (Calvin Emerson)

Ms. Harper makes it abundantly clear what she expects this additional funding to be used for without saying it directly: “We believe this funding plan will ensure financial stability for the Early Learning Center and ensure there is no break in service.”

Further into the letter, Harper highlights a long-term agreement the county has made with EvCC, called the “Puget Sound Taxpayer Accountability Account” (PSTAA). PSTAA, on its face value, seems to be an incredibly generous, long-lasting source of funding. Harper not only projects it to last the entire decade, potentially extending into 2035, but also says that the funds will substantially increase with each passing year.

For example, EvCC was given an allocation of $88,000 during 2021. For the next fiscal year, Harper projects that EvCC will be given $176,000 instead. That’s exactly twice as much funding when compared to last year. According to Harper, these projections will help the college keep sufficient funding for the ELC until 2025, at the latest.

This is undeniably hopeful news for the Early Learning Center, and would seemingly help EvCC achieve it’s goal of keeping it financially sustainable without subsidizing the college’s operating budget. Yet bizarrely enough, EvCC has not only avoided accepting the additional funding, it allegedly chose not to speak with the county at all.

A row of toy watering cans left hanging on a chain gate at the Early Learning Center. (Calvin Emerson)

This bizarre lack of communication is highlighted in the second letter, written by County Executive Dave Somers and sent to President Whalen on January 26th of this year. In the letter, Somers expresses his displeasure with EvCC for seemingly ignoring the county’s offer. Despite the initial letter sent on Dec. 10, plus two follow-ups on Jan. 4th and

Jan.14th, the county was only now hearing back from EvCC. Finally in talking terms, the two organizations scheduled a meeting for February 1st.

Somers also takes the time within the letter to assert the county’s strong opposition against ELC’s potential closure. “Particularly in the midst of a global pandemic, the closure of the ELC would be damaging to families, our economy, and the community.”

As of today, EvCC is still in negotiations with the county. In an official statement, President Whalen reassured the public that EvCC is not turning down the funding, but did not explicitly say they’re accepting the money. He also states that EvCC has requested info from the county about “a definitive, permanent source of funding”, an unknown quantity that EvCC has been searching for since the pause.

The roof over the Early Learning Center’s front entrance (Calvin Emerson)

What happened at the Feb. 1 meeting and why EvCC is still refusing to accept the offer is, as of today, currently unknown. However, what is clear is a troubling pattern of behavior among EvCC higher-ups. It’s unusual of an organization to give their county officials the silent treatment, let alone when they’re offering you thousands of dollars in much-needed revenue. It only heightens concerns from union members, who have accused EvCC of having ulterior, for-profit motives and enabling conflicts of interest within the board of trustees.

However, at the end of the day, beyond all the conflict and controversy, this has all been about a single school and the integral, positive effect it has had on teachers, parents, and kids alike. For now, the Early Learning Center is scheduled to close by June 30th. How long EVCC will be without child care services, a crucial need for dozens of students with kids, is yet to be known.

This is an ongoing story. We’ll be reporting any & all developments about the ELC’s future, right here at the Everett Clipper.