Start A Co-Op Preschool

Preschools can be a giant chunk of change, so some parents are banding together and forming their own unofficial co-op preschools. Tuition is minimal and mainly goes to paying the teacher (that they get to choose), and they save on overhead by rotating the location between different family’s homes. There are definitely some considerations to figure out. People who’ve done it before advise:

* Set an age range – a max 6 month difference seems to work best
* Know your state laws – in New York, if you take care of more than two unrelated children for longer than 3 hours, you need to register with the Department of Health, so some Brooklyn pre-school co-ops make sure to limit sessions to less than 3 hours.
* Don’t be crazypants – “At our initial meeting I looked at everyone and said nobody is suing anybody,” the starter of one co-op preschool told Brooklyn Based.

How to Start a Co-Op Preschool [Brooklyn Based] (Thanks to c-side!)


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  1. MamaBug says:

    sounds like a plan – daycares are stupidly expensive. When we actually save money by my staying at home with the kids, they cost too much.

    • caradrake says:

      Same. We make more money by me staying home with our two kids, than by putting them in daycare/preschool and working. It’s sad, although I love being able to spend so much time with them.

      • MamaBug says:

        exactly. if i were to get a job we have to factor in daycare, cost of another car (including gas and up-keep), and it just doesn’t come out with us on top. This co-op thing sounds like we might not lose money (since one started kindergarten this year – now there’s only one at home) if I were to work. so I’m putting my feelers out, just in case I can find something stupidly close.

  2. SaltWater says:

    We did a co op preschool with our twins for 1 year before they began kindergarten.
    It worked out pretty well because our schedules were semi flexible. My job was to wash, dry and fold the towels every week.

  3. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I love the idea. Plus the teacher would probably make a lot more than through the district (although lose some obvious benefits) and would really let teachers who enjoy more freedom to their curriculum really shine.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Ha, just realized preschool isn’t usually in a school district system. But still, reduced overhead can equal higher salaries.

  4. hosehead says:

    Decent idea, but be careful. Rotating between houses? No way. The insurance and liability implications are a bit scary with this. Rent a proper space and insure it.

    Our daycare is not cheap, but it is reasonably priced for the services provided. They make efforts to keep costs down without cutting corners. There is no way I could provide those services any cheaper myself.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      yep, the co-op preschool my sister and i attended in the late 70’s was in a rented space in a church down the street. it was especially great since my mom is an artist and the church space had big tables and sinks so when she was in charge it was all peanut butter [edible, but not permitted in preschools today] play-doh and finger painting!

      • ExtraCelestial says:

        Oh gosh I had forgotten all about peanut butter play-doh! Kids today are seriously missing out. I was in elementary school in the early to mid 90s, it’s not like it was even that long ago.

  5. UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

    “At our initial meeting I looked at everyone and said nobody is suing anybody”

    You tell them! That’s sure gonna stop people from suing when a kid gets a booboo.

    • Necoras says:

      Everyone signs a legally binding waiver. Make sure you know all of the parents involved well. If you’re all friends already, it shouldn’t be an issue.

      • Skankingmike says:

        ok news flash people.

        You cannot sign your child’s rights away. At no point can you wave any rights of your child. You may sign things and you may not sue. However, that does not limit the child’s rights to file suit at whatever statue of limitation is after they turn 18.

    • TehLlama says:

      There are, in fact, some parents left that life happens, and litigation isn’t the solution to very many things, and only from within that pool of people would I choose to have somebody who would help raise my kids.
      Granted, insurance is the main reason early childcare IS so expensive, but this is one of those cases where you really do get more than you pay for.

  6. rpm773 says:

    At our initial meeting I looked at everyone and said nobody is suing anybody

    That plan works great until somebody sues somebody.

  7. crazydavythe1st says:

    It sounds like a great idea, but are that many preschools for profit? It seems like most of the preschools I’ve seen are non-profit or even subsidized by religious groups.

    It seems like you would start inexpensive like this, and then once costs start piling on you wouldn’t end up saving that much. Then again, you don’t have the rent so I guess that helps.

    Of course this is non-New York. I don’t know if it is accurate, but everything I’ve heard about New York preschools on the news makes me think you’re paying college tuition like rates for it.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      The problem with trendy areas like NY is that parents get the idea that they NEED to spend college tuition rates for their pre-school children. And since many of these parents make 4 figures, they also have money to throw around.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Whoops, I meant 6 figures. Four figures would be signs of a poor career choice.

      • nybiker says:

        Isn’t 4 figures mean no more than $9,999.99? Add a penny and now you’ve got 5 figures. I’m guessing you meant 6 figures. And hopefully in the mid 6 figures, otherwise, you might not have any money to throw around.

      • Coles_Law says:

        Um, 6 figures, perhaps? I’ve made 4 figures before and all i had to throw around were bills.

    • Hoss says:

      A not-for-profit inserts costs such as administrative and overhead (rent, utilities, taxes, etc, etc). These coop participants aren’t even doing the basics like providing proper tax evidence of the fees

    • humphrmi says:

      When our kids were pre-school age (first one about 9 years ago, last one about 3 years ago) the non-profits in our area were more expensive than the for-profit pre-schools.

      And as others said, in many cases it was cheaper for one of us to not work than to pay for pre-school. And in most cases, they fell into one of two categories: The first had such top-notch teachers and curriculum that they all but guaranteed future acceptance to Ivy schools, and the second was little more than glorified day-care. Both were equally expensive, with a differential of a few hundred dollars a month between them. Then there were the third, you wouldn’t send your enemies there… but most everyone (parents anyway) already knew who THOSE places were.

    • Razor512 says:

      All of them are for profit. If you weren’t making huge profits, would you run a day care where you had to work with kids? The younger they are, the more difficult they are to deal with. if you ask a first grade teacher about their school day, they will probably compare it to the worst part of hell.

      Imagine having to spend longer than school hours dealing with even younger and more annoying kids?

      They must be doing it for the huge profits.

      • crazydavythe1st says:

        I live in Texas, and most of them around here are sponsored by churches and are at least partially about indoctrinating children. The plus side is that they are non-profit and want to reach as many children as possible as cheaply as possible.

    • Billy says:

      Not for profit doesn’t necessarily mean “inexpensive”. Nonprofit just means (basically) that the surplus money is invested back into the organization as opposed to distributed among owners. The NFL is a nonprofit and there’s a ton of money flowing through there: (

      Are you thinking “charitable organization”? Most charities are nonprofits, but not all nonprofits are charities.

    • Billy says:

      Not for profit doesn’t necessarily mean “inexpensive”. Nonprofit just means (basically) that the surplus money is invested back into the organization as opposed to distributed among owners. The NFL is a nonprofit and there’s a ton of money flowing through there: (

      Are you thinking “charitable organization”? Most charities are nonprofits, but not all nonprofits are charities.

  8. Hoss says:

    If a toddler get molested by a relative (not part of the coop), and a parent sees evidence of it and concludes is must be the daycare situation — there is no level of waiver or insurance that can make this go away. I fear for anyone that would do this

  9. 108socks says:

    This is similar to home-school co-ops. Most areas have homeschoolers that form their own groups and meet, rotate subjects to teach, do field trips together and often have sports groups and other activities. It always works out well. If the parents are on board together, fairly like-minded in their goals and spell out stuff at the beginning, it can be a rewarding experience. And free. And no one sues, in my experiences.

  10. Bohemian says:

    I wish people would coop more things. It could lower the cost and directly provide decent jobs in their community.

  11. Razor512 says:

    Cant they just leave their kids at home and just get them a xbox 360 or a PS3, it will be cheaper than daycare or preschool (which they learn nothing from)

    At least with a game like Dead space, or gears of war, or one of the many call of duty games, or many other good games. The games will keep them entertained and out of trouble while you are at work, and if they get bored of the games, just have to use the PC and download some anime or use 4chan or something. Why pay exuberant amounts of money at a daycare when a game console of a PC can do the same job?

  12. Griking says:

    Is the job a second job for the teacher? If not then where does the teacher get health insurance from?

  13. backwerds says:

    Without explaining a lot of my background story; I work for a company that deals directly with the management of daycare centers and child care centers. That being said; I will provide a few tips and suggestions for parents to consider before doing this.
    1. Talk to your state licensing department to make sure it is legal in your state, normally the Department of Human Services.
    2. Make sure you obey the ratios for the state for licensing; which all are dependent on age.
    3. Make sure where ever you do have this child care, that you provide the proper paperwork including state information cards or emergency cards. Most states have the information available (I want to say I found 35 state information cards)
    4. If you are financially in need, look into state subsidy programs. A lot of states have a lot of programs that can provide complete or assisted subsidy programs for child care. A few states even have subsidy programs that can set the limit to how much the child care center can charge you beyond the state subsidy reimbursement payment.
    5. Look into food assistant programs, even tip #4 doesn’t apply to you. Every state offers a program through CACFP; and it’s a national program. If your child care center provides food, they can be eligible for a discount; and being a national program, the rules are strictly national, not individual state based.
    6. If you want to get your child into a non-home based child care center, consider bulking together multiple parents and using that power to get a discount at a child care center. You can even pool together job skills of parents in the companies for additional discounts. (Maybe offer to provide website assistance in exchange for child care services)

  14. nacoran says:

    There is a really good article on how one baby-sitting co-op went ‘bankrupt’. They had vouchers you could trade for future baby-sitting. The voucher system froze up from a lack of credit. If you want a really simple explanation for how economies work it’s a great read.

    • Razor512 says:

      I wonder, why does it fail here but in countries such as Africa, it has been working for hundreds of years (at least for villages)

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        Completely different society structures. Africa is one of the least educated regions in the world in terms of education for children. 45 million children in Africa have never been to school, and only half the entire population of children are actively enrolled in some kind of education. If children aren’t in school, they’re working with the family. Men and women can tend to their family farms or sell handmade goods in the market and the kids are active participants, rather than students. Western societies don’t allow for what is essentially child labor. Here it’s mandated that children must be in school.

        So the reason why it “works” is really because it shouldn’t be working. If all African children were given proper educational resources and were required to be in school during the day, African villages would have a lot of problems. Children aren’t just another mouth to feed; they’re also workers.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        I guess my comment didn’t get posted… I wrote that the reason why it doesn’t work the same way is because African villages have an entirely different structure than Westernized nations. Here we require our children go to school. In Africa, 45 million kids have never even been in a school. Children aren’t just offspring, they’re another set of hands to work in the farm or make goods to sell in the market. If children in Africa were required to go to school in the day, the entire village would probably collapse.

        So in essence, the reason why it “works” in African villages is the fact that they don’t have the requirement of a basic right (education) we have provided to people in our society.

      • hotcocoa says:

        Africa isn’t a country…?

  15. Cantras says:

    Okay, is the proper answer for this a) “I make my own pre-schools at home”, or b) “I make my own pre-schoolers at home” ?

  16. Mike says:

    I save lots of money by making my own preschools at home.

  17. describe_one says:

    My daughter attends one of these co-op preschools. It’s a bigger one where they rent a space, hire teachers, and have classrooms of roughly 20-30 spanning 2 yrs (2-3, 3-4, 4-5). It’s pretty cool because they teach them a lot, take them on field trips, swimming, music, dancing, etc, and the parents are really invovled. Plus, it’s cheaper than other comparable daycare/preschool options. You just have to chip in around the school doing fund raising, cleaning, volunteering, committees, and other various tasks.

    • ElizabethD says:

      That’s how our coop preschool worked when our kids were little. The field trips were wonderful. We had two certified teachers and an assistant teacher (for several years this was a terrific young man who was getting his PhD in early childhood ed — my kids adored him). The fundraisers and group work days were actually fun. We met wonderful families and years later are still friendly with many of them; the kids, now in college and/or out and working, keep in touch on Facebook. We could not have afforded fulltime private preschool, so this was a win all around. The space was rented classrooms (and playground, and auditorium-cum-gym) in a local church, but with no religious affiliation.

  18. ElizabethD says:

    We joined an existing coop preschool. It was pretty great, and all 3 of our kids have very fond memories (and some lasting friendships going back 15-20 years), but as a working parent I did find it difficult sometimes to schedule my four-hour “duty days” at the school. Also, I had to either work that night to make up the lost office time or take a half vacation day. Had I been a SAHM, it would have been excellent all around. As it was, I learned a LOT about communicating with my own preschoolers from observing the head teacher and how she handled a variety of situations. And on shared duty days I got to know many really cool parents who became family friends — much more so than if I’d only been doing a quick drop-off.