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Complaint alleges Austin church day care 'profiting from the pandemic'

A complaint filed with the Texas Attorney General's Office alleges the Redeemer Lutheran Early Childhood Center is charging full tuition despite COVID-19 changes.

AUSTIN, Texas — An Austin church day care is being investigated by the Texas Attorney General’s Office for allegedly “profiting from the pandemic,” according to a complaint filed with the state agency earlier this month.

“We would have been happy to keep paying tuition to support the teachers, but not just to fatten the church's bank account,” a concerned parent told KVUE.

The parent asked that we protect their privacy by not using their name.

Their child went to the Redeemer Lutheran Early Childhood Center off Anderson Lane. The day care center closed in late March, except for children of essential workers.

When the day care closed in-person operations, it started offering remote learning options. But a parent said those options only consist of about 30 minutes of videos per day.

The parent claims that didn’t stop the day care from charging full tuition, while also requiring a 30-day notice for parents who wanted to stop paying.

“We found out later that teachers were not being paid unless they showed up to work,” the parent said.   

When they started asking questions about where the tuition money was going, the day care director said in an email, "Unfortunately, you do not have the full picture. The teachers are hourly employees ... Each hourly employee in all departments was given the option whether or not to work."

That was of concern for parents who were still paying full price.

“Some of those teachers didn't come to work because they weren't needed due to the small number of children attending. I suspect others didn't show up out of fear for their own health,” the parent said.

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The church’s lead pastor, Kevin Westergren, declined an interview with KVUE, but told us in an email: "Redeemer ECC staff are hourly workers and have continued to be fully paid for hours they are able to work either remotely or on-campus."

A complaint about Redeemer filed with the Texas Attorney General’s Office earlier this month alleges it is "profiting from the pandemic. Full tuition in, only partial payroll out."

Westergren said that is simply not true and that payroll for the day care isn’t fully funded by tuition, saying the church does not "have the funds available nor the children to care for that would allow us to schedule our staff the hours that they were working prior to the COVID-19 pandemic hitting Austin."

The parents said the day care has a great team of teachers who are providing a loving environment for kids, but they hoped bringing up the issue could help improve transparency from the church administration.

“We were being asked to pay the full bill for a service that was not rendered. And at the same time, that tuition was not being passed on to the individuals that that school counts on to deliver quality childcare. And we just didn't think that was fair,” they said.

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