Tuition, Fees & Deposits for Preschools & Daycare

Parent Q&A

Daycare won't refund deposit or tuition after Covid closing Aug 10, 2020 (1 responses below)
Is your preschool implementing a COVID surcharge? Jul 18, 2020 (22 responses below)
Preschool abruptly closed down - won’t issue refund on deposit Jul 19, 2018 (2 responses below)
  • Hi all,

    I'm looking for an attorney that specialized in contract law.  Specifically I'm looking for someone who can give legal advice about what my options are regarding my day care.  My day care refuses to re-enroll our child unless we sign a ridiculous covid waiver form/contract addendum (which is within their right), but now they won't return our deposit and first month's tuition.  More specifically they've just completely ghosted us and won't answer our emails.  Can a daycare even refuse to re-enroll and not return a deposit if you don't agree to a contract modification?

    They also owe us a partial refund from what they received from the PPP, but now they won't even acknowledge our existence.  All and all we're probably out 10K+ :( 

    I can't speak to the deposit issue (though will say that the conditions for a deposit refund were very explicitly spelled out in our preschool's contract, so it's worth doing a close reading to see if it also is in yours). For the PPP, though, tuition refunds are not an allowable use of PPP funds, so it's possible that they made this promise before being advised that it was not permissible. In an ideal world they would just be honest and say so, but I can imagine they may just be dodging questions about it in the interim to avoid confrontation. I would not expect to see that money back, and would probably just focus on getting the deposits refunded (or, depending on your goals, on getting your child enrolled without the waiver requirement). Good luck--hopefully someone can provide an attorney suggestion!

  • Hi all,

    our preschool is looking to add a substantial surcharge to regular tuition (20-30%) and has stated that this is what preschools do these days. Has your preschool been adding a surcharge or planning to do so? If so, how much? 

    Thank you!

    Nope. We recently decided to switch from our larger preschool to a smaller one, so there's less chance of spread of germs. And neither of them had upped their prices at all in this time. In fact, the larger preschool had a "pay what you can" policy during the shelter-in-place shutdown, just to help pay the teacher's salaries. Adding a surcharge in this situation seems a bit out of touch to me. I haven't heard of other places adding charges. We're all struggling to get by!

    My son is at Little Beans preschool and they have not implemented any surcharge or change in tuition. I don't know what they're doing for tuition for new students, but their policy has always been that tuition rates for existing students are frozen from when the child starts at the school until they age out.

    Our preschool has not added a surcharge but they were lucky in that the space they have been using can be configured to split the kids in to separated groups up in mostly outdoor areas. I'm sure some schools are limited by their available space and the challenge of keeping adults spaced apart. To achieve the teacher spacing we have had a reduction in our daily hours by 1 hour. I also believe most of the parents were paying full tuition (by choice) during the first few Covid months. I can easily imagine scenarios where a school might need to increase tuition by 20% to cover extra supplies, spacing, and a reduction in children as some parents opt to keep them home. I do think you'd be well within reason to ask for an explanation of the increase. If you don't like the explanation, you'll probably find that there are openings elsewhere right now.

  • Hey everyone, our preschool Learning to Leap recently gave us three days notice that the school was closing down at the end of this week. We paid a $1000 deposit when we started the school and I expected that amount to be returned to us, but the director of the school is not giving us back our money. The verbiage in the contract isn’t super clear about how the deposit would be refunded and since the school itself isn’t going to exist anymore, we don’t know how to go about getting the money back. Should we pursue some kind of legal action against the director herself? 

    Small claims court would be a good option for attempting to recover the money. You're going to have a hard time hiring a lawyer to help you recover such a (relatively) small sum. 

    Also, have you double checked that the deposit wasn't credited already towards you first month of tuition? That's what our preschool did, and I think it's a common practice. The only purpose of the deposit for preschool is to discourage families from taking a spot who don't really intend to enroll, so most preschools use the deposit towards your first month of tuition rather than holding onto it until you leave. 

    We’re in the same situation as you about the deposit. It’s not worth the time to pursue, even in small claims court. We checked her financial situation out on White Pages. She filed for bankruptcy a few years ago. She has 34 current and unpaid tax liens, most recent one a few days ago, as well as liens from the California Employment Development Department. Even if you could find her to serve her and get a judgment, your chances of collecting on it are not good. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Super confused about preschool application fees

April 2012

Hi there! I have a 20-month old and would like to put her in a pre-school for a few days a week. I started looking at pre-schools and noticed that most applications required a deposit. Are parents really expected to send a check in with each application? I assumed I will apply to several schools but only get into 1, if that even, since I understand space is limited. However, I don't want to send a check along with each application. That doesn't make sense. Thanks for any feedback. clueless about preschool!

It's easier than you think. Most likely your child will be accepted into all or most of the schools to which you apply. Really. And yes, you do have to pay an application fee for every single application, so that's why you should only apply to 2-4 schools. Don't start stressing out now--it really is easier than you think. Seasoned mom to 3

 this was a pet peeve of mine when looking for preschool for my son. Unfortunately as the mother of a toddler I didn't have the time to fight the system but I think that it is a highly suspect business practice. I understand taking a fee if they actually do something with your application which could result in you being admitted but many of them put you on a wait list that you have no realistic chance of ever getting in to the school from. I did only apply to about 3 schools and when I applied I did ask the question if my child had a decent shot at getting and did not apply if they did not. With one school who's answering system said they did not return calls but to send in the application I sent it in accompanied by a letter that if my child did not have a shot at getting to please return my application and check. They returned my check to me! So don't be afraid to ask. PS now that my kids are a little older I do have some time to deal with this stuff so if you want some help trying to fight this suspect practice I could.

Application fees defray the costs of talking to, mailing, and tracking prospective students every year during the enrollment season. This includes paying the people who answer your phone calls, take you on a tour of the site, mail you information about the school, keep you on the list of prospective parents, schedule visits, make decisions about enrollment, and notify you about the outcome. Even a parent participation preschool, where parents volunteer for many of these activities, has costs around recruiting and enrollment -- printing and advertising costs, staffing the school for tours and information nights, providing refreshments for visiting parents, etc.

The application fee not only covers some of these costs, but it also helps to limit the number of applications, since only those who are seriously interested enough in the school will pay the fee. If there were no application fee, the more popular schools would have hundreds of applications to sift through. I think it is reasonable to pay an application fee. Just udentify the 3 or 4 schools that you are really interested in.

I got laid off so can't use daycare, need deposit back

August 2009

I had planned to return to work after my maternity leave in mid-August, and found a wonderful family day care for my son. We gave a deposit (one month's tuition) and signed a contract back in early May. Wouldn't you know it, early August rolls around and I get a call from my boss telling me I have no job to return to. This was 2 weeks before my son was to start childcare. Given the economy, and job prospects in my industry in particular, I know it could be several months before I can find another position. My husband and I decided that we needed to cancel childcare - we just can't afford it until I actually have some income -- which I did the next day.

The provider was very understanding on the phone, and suggested I call back when I find a job; if she has openings at that time, she would be happy to take my son. During the conversation, I did not ask for my deposit back. My thinking at the time was that the deposit held our spot, and it wasn't really fair for her to now have to scramble to fill it with so little notice. But, when I described the situation to several people, they were surprised she did not offer to return it.

I am sympathetic to the provider's situation; but, of course, we could really use the money back. My husband even suggested using a month's worth of care anyway, since we essentially paid for it, but I think that's unnecessarily disruptive to our son. Plus its probably too late for that now. I'm thinking about calling in a few weeks to see if she has filled the spot, and if so, asking if she would consider returning some or all of our deposit. (I don't think she has any way of contacting us, as I still have all of the forms, including the signed contract. I was to return them to her 1-2 weeks before our son started care.) Would this be out of line? Has anyone else been in a similar situation? How did you handle it? Thanks in advance for your input. Anon

We were in a similar position after our son was born and we didn't asl for the deposit back. I know from the contract we wouldn't have gotten it back anyway. check your contract... but i have to say i also didn't think it would be fair to ask for it. she has held a spot for your child and passed on other potential candidates..that's why there is a protect her in case of cancelation. Yes it's hard, ours was 1 months as well but it's faire. i am sure some will respond that when you lost your job you didn't get a months salary. However, you also didn't refuse other jobs to keep that it's different. And if you want to use her when you go back to work, then leave her the money...she might give you credit for it at some point. anon

You have my sympathies for your situation. I'm not sure about the legalities of getting your deposit back (is the word ''nonrefundable'' anywhere on your contract?), but here's another possibility to consider. Your husband suggested going ahead and using the full month of childcare since it was paid for, but you feel that would be hard on your son. I'm assuiming the slot was for FT care? What about instead negotiating something with the care provider where she watches your son for a few hours a week, say 2-3 mornings for 2 months, to approximate the amount of tuition you have already paid? She may well have more open slots than she anticipated given the economy - it is certainly happening at my kids' daycare. And you could suggest that you might be opening to continuing the arrangment in some form after the initial period is up - so that she does not see it as JUST a favor she is giving you.

The reason I am suggesting this is that if your husband is still working FT, and you are actively looking for a job, you are going to HAVE to have some childcare for your job search. You can't bring the baby to interviews, networking lunches, etc! Plus you might welcome a few hours of break each week to run errands when there are no interviews. Could be a solution that could work out for both of you. But you should call her soon, before your deposit gets absorbed into her finances and forgotten. Fellow job-hunting mom

I just went through 5 months unemployed. You will need childcare sometimes to do a job search, go to interviews and generally get your head together. I would use the 1 month if you can. Since you will need to get your kid into childcare when you are working again it may be a great way to get him or her slowly acclimated to the place. Good luck! Jennifer

This economy is difficult for many daycare providers as well. Perhaps you noticed that there have been more than 25 providers with openings for each of the last 3 weeks. Your deposit meant that you had the security of knowing that your child was set for a wonderful care situation AND your provider possibly turned away families looking for care. It may be weeks if not months before your provider fills your space with an appropriate child, taking into account age and gender balance. And if she does fill the space quicker, it might be for fewer hours and therefore less income over a long time. She has kept her part of your agreement and you are the one pulling out.

And she probably needs that $500 more than you do. All that being said, you could politely ask if a refund or partial refund is possible, but I believe that she is within her rights to make that decision herself. Perhaps you have a case against your previous employer. a provider who has been there ...

Daycare terminated our contract, won't refund deposit

June 2009

Has anyone experienced the termination of child care after two days? Our child day care terminated our contract after only two days of service. We had paid a deposit of $650.00 at the time of the signing of the contract and another $650.00 on the first day of day care for service to be rendered for the next two weeks. Upon the termination of our contract, the owner stated that she will not refund any of the amount, $1300.00. Is this possible?

The termination reason, given by the day care, was that we were being difficult. We dropped our 6 month old baby off at 08:30 am with a scheduled pick up at 11:30 am. The owner was agitated by the 11:30 pick-up time. She stated that 11:30 am is nap time for the children at the center. However, the contract stated that nap time is between the hour of 12:00 pm and 02:30 pm. At pick up, the owner stated that she can no longer take care of our baby because we do not follow the rule. What rule are we not following?

Is it fair for a day care to terminate any time for any reason and keep all the money? Is this a general policy with all the day care? Concerned Parents

Your post sounds like it was an unfair situation, but I'd want a little more information before passing judgment on this one.

Most importantly, what does your contract actually say about terminating the relationship? Did the daycare provider say that you couldn't return to the daycare ever again or just that you could finish out the time that you paid for and not more (that's what deposits and contracts are there for, and why there are ''outs'' for both parties)? Deposits aren't a guarantee that you'll be able to stay indefinitely - they're just there as securities for you to have a guaranteed spot for when you want to start service. And if either of you decide to call it quits, you have time to find a replacement. If they say you can't even finish out the time that you paid for, then they are probably breaching their contract. But if you just don't want to show up again even if you're allowed to, you should accept the money loss. As for the situation, It does seem odd that you had a scheduled pick-up at 11:30 two times in a row, yet that was nap time for some of the kids. I can't imagine that the daycare owner wouldn't have let you pick up the child early if it was sick.

Is this a new daycare with not many clients (perhaps a warning flag for the next time you put your deposit down somewhere)? Or was there just a misunderstanding? For instance, were you actually trying to be respectful of the other kids when you came by? (sometimes kids just nap early some days, a fact of life) Maybe you could work out an agreement that would be less disruptive of the other kids if you really need to do an early pick-up (like having the child's things ready, and the baby handed out to you instead of you coming in). Did you try contacting the owner again, now that you aren't in the ''heat of the moment'' when you had the bad interaction? If the daycare is actually good in many ways (location, price, kids' and other parents' satisfaction, etc.), it's probably worth trying to work it out. You don't want to shoot yourself in the foot terminating something that could be good for your family in the long run, even though there are problems at the start. Anon

This sounds like a scam to me. Even if she had a legitimate complaint about your behavior, which doesn't sound like the case, at the very least she would refund your deposit - if she were on the up and up.

Since you have a contract, I would contact her by certified letter telling her that if she does not return the deposit and, at a minimum, half of the amount you paid for the two weeks of service, she will be hearing from your attorney next. deborah

My guess is that they got an offer for a 'full-time' child and want to unload the 'part-time' child...Get your money back and get your child a new situation. -anon

You should carefully read the contract you signed. If the daycare is uncomfortable with your pick-up time b/c of naps, yet the contract states a different naptime period, I think you have a leg to stand on and could fight for your deposit via small claims (an easy process, but a bit time consuming, as in, you have to do your part of the paperwork and show up to court). If you win small claims you still have collect, another arduous process, but it can work if you're willing to fight them.

I actually encourage you to take them to small claims court; they should be much more willing to work with someone only two days into the contract, and yet they obviously were not. Though of course I'm hearing only your side of the conflict, and maybe you were being difficult (doesn't sound so, however), they should at least be reasonable enough after only TWO DAYS to give you back most of your money.

I say take 'em to small claims. I wonder if this daycare is doing anything like this to others in order to make extra $$? Sounds almost like a scam.. I mean, two days...

Your baby wouldn't be in good hands there anyway, and you might win the small claims case. At least they might learn a little (expensive) lesson. Small claims can garner you three times the complaint amount. Then you'll have to collect, but you can do that, too, via the courts (i.e. garnish their bank account). It takes time, but it can be done. -- tired of being ripped off!

This is crazy. They can only keep the money if YOU pull out. They can't take your money and deny you the service as well. They are in breach of the contract.

I'm sorry to hear about your issues with the day care. It actually sounds like a legal situation. You may want to consult a lawyer to find out exactly what your rights are and what you are entitled to. I've used a law firm that will do consultations and even write a letter on your behalf if needed regarding such matters without breaking your wallet. Then you could at least know where you stand. Feel free to email me if you'd like their info. Best of luck, Empathetic f.

Please call Community Care Licensing and file a complaint against this provider. You have a legal right to drop in any time unannounced to visit or pick up your child. If the Center doesn't return your deposit/fees I would take them to small claims court.

Our son got kicked out of daycare for not taking a bottle. We didn't think it would be an issue since he was over 6 months and eating solids and he was only there 3-4 hours/day, but they got annoyed after trying for a couple of months and kicked him out. We got a month's warning that they were going to do it and they didn't keep any extra money. I would be LIVID if our DCP did to us what yours did to you. It can't possibly be legal, can it? Can't believe your DCP

I am so sorry to hear about what you are going through with the day care. Unfortunately, I don't have any legal advice for you, but you may want to see it either through your work, or through other venues (I heard there's a low-cost legal advice available in Berkeley, something like ''We are the people.'') It doesn't sound right that they can just keep your money even though they didn't provide any service to you.

As for the first hand ''bad'' daycare experience, our first day care - a San Francisco center called ''C5'' (Civic Center Child Corporation)had several incidents were famililes were expelled from daycare with little or no investigation, largely on a whim. It almost happened to us (I am not going into detail, but it was not a pleasant experience), but we eneded up being able to stay there and then left as soon as we could. The day care is impossible to find on a short notice, so there should be a provision to at least allow families find another provider before they have to leave.

I hope you can recover your money and find another (good!) child care provider quickly. a_a

If I were you, I would get out that contract that you signed ASAP and see if there are any things in there that preclude you from demanding a refund for services NOT rendered. If she only cared for your child for two days, then she should be required to refund the other 12 days worth of pay. The deposit may not be refundable based on what the contract says. I'd however, be fighting for all of the money back (less the two days of care provided). Its seems she made no attempt to remedy any problem that she thought was occuring and instead of talking to you about it, just decided to take your money and run. I'd fight. Get Your Money Back!

Dear Parents,

First off, thank your lucky stars that the contract has been terminated. I would sooner chew my leg off than have my kid at a daycare with such insane rules and ways of dealing with things.

That said, read your contract. There is probably a very explicit clause about terminating the arrangement, repayment of deposit, etc. It seems highly unlikely that ''being difficult'' is listed under reasons for termination.

I have never heard of a daycare center showing unwillingness to allow the parents of an infant to come by at any time to check on or pick up their child. Moms at my sons' infant center used to drop in throughout the day to nurse their kids! Makes me suspicious - as though they didn't want you being there at that particular time? Maybe it's time to check with the liscensing board or get some specific info about the particular center? anonymous

Is this a licensed daycare? They are required by state law to inform parents that parents can drop in ANY time. Whether it's nap time is irrelevant. If she is making a fuss because you dropped in at a time she didn't want you to, this is a violation of state regulations and you should report her. If she is NOT licensed, you should report her because she can be fined up to $200 a day. Google California Community Care Licensing.

I had a similar experience not too long ago (terminated after 3 days). It was such a bizarre situation that I am still confused at the whole thing and found no real options to get back my deposit other than small claims court. I did call the licensing board and was told she broke no laws. It was just so upsetting on so many levels that I let it drop. I walked away feeling like I learned a hard but valuable lesson on how to find the best care for my child. Looking back, I knew in my gut that it wasn't right when I signed up. I should have gone with the feeling and will never dismiss it again.

I would be interested to know if we may have had the same daycare provider. If you would like to talk offline, shoot me an email. Nic


No longer happy with preschool - get out of contract?

August 2008

We are taking our child out of a pre-school because we do not feel like it is the right place for any of us. Aside from keeping $1,500 in deposits, they are requiring us to pay more, we do not know how much yet but perhaps several thousands more because we had signed a contract. They are threatening us with engaging a collection agency even though none of the money is for care actually provided. Is there anyone who has gone through this, know what to do? We are not rich but we shouldn\x92t be bound to send our little one to a place we no longer feel happy in. Please comment. stressed out parents

I understand your desire to find a good placement for your child that fits with your philosophy and standards. This is, in part, why these contracts exist. So that parents will not capriciously sign their kids up for a program taking spots away from families who are more committed.

Now that you have made that commitment (and potentially another family was turned away on your behalf) you absolutely owe it to the school to pay for the spot until it is filled.

I would also re-think your last statement - You essentially said ''I don't think we should be bound to honor our commitments just because we signed a contract'' anon

Preschool with late acceptance date - make deposit for 2nd choice?

Feb 2008

We just got a call that our daughter could come in for an observation at very desirable preschool, and that it was likely but not certain that she'd have a place there next fall. Since the observation date is late March, I believe we'll have to accept/decline our other school options before we even get to visit! I've read some old posts that the school is great but really don't have much information to base rejecting our other school choices. I'm just wondering what other parents in this situation experienced. thanks so much for your help.

We were in a similar situation for preschool. The school that best fit our family was very slow getting out acceptance letters and we had no idea what our chances were of getting in. So we accepted a place at the only other school we had applied to. A month later we got into our first choice school and took it. We lost a big deposit but feel we made the right choice. It sounds like you are doing the right thing by getting all the information you can so that you can make the best decision you can, but if money is an issue, you will also want to factor that into your decision. Good luck!

Breaking a Preschool Contract..anyone had success?

July 2008

We are in a serious bind and need some advice. I am hoping that someone out there has been in a similar situation and can offer some words of wisdom.

Both of my kids attend a fabulous Montessori school - I'll call it the Turquoise school (has nothing to do with anything, but I need a good code name). Because we live in a part of Oakland where the schools are sketchy, we decided to send our oldest child (who I will call Aloe) to Turquoise for Kindergarten. Well, after we had already signed a contract with Turquoise for this next year, several things changed for us and for Aloe. I won't get into the details here, but the changes were big enough to make us rethink our plan.

We thought and talked about it for a long time, and finally decided to apply (late) to a private school. We didn't give official notice at Turquoise, but they unofficially knew about our intentions. It turns out that Aloe was accepted at the private school a couple of weeks ago. However, now the Turquoise school will not let us out of our contract for this year. Apparently there are several spaces open for next year, and until they fill all of them (including Aloe's), we are obligated to pay them tuition, even though Aloe will not be attending the school.

So, now we are looking at double tuition for an indefinite number of months - maybe even a full school year.

Obviously, we signed a contract and the Turquoise school has a business to run. We are not looking to weasel out of anything - just looking for some kind of win/win solution. Is there one? If anyone has any advice, we would love to hear it!

Thanks. Signed, Sticky School Situation

Why don't you try recruiting students for the school? I felt guilty about moving my younger daughter to another school in the Fall. I loved her preschool teacher and the environment, but was sick of driving in two different directions every morning, being expected to be in two places at the same time, etc. I wanted both of my girls going to the same place. So, I put an e-mail out to my Mom's Club list. The teacher was able to fill her last remaining spots (two in each class) within a week AND start a waiting list. -anon

Preschool dicontinued our employee discount tuition rate

Nov 2007

My son has attended a preschool affiliated with a synagogue for nine months. When we were initially offered the spot, we were offered an employee discount because my husband does periodic work for the synagogue. This discount continued throughout the summer and the first month of the current school year. Come October, we received a bill charging a higher tuition rate. Attached was an unapologetic memo stating that employees are now defined as those who work at least 20 hours a week for the organization. We met with the preschool director as well as the board president and basically all we got was ''this is the new policy.'' We don't feel that this is reason to take our son out of a great preschool but we definitely feel disrespected. Especially because we're more involved than most parents there. Should we drop it and pay up or go another route? Feeling stepped on

''disrespected?'' Why would you feel that someone wasn't giving you respect because you no longer get a special deal?

Usually in these situations there has been a big fight and the board has had to meet and argue it out. It's not as though all of these people met in a room and said ''I know, let's insult so and so'' (that's what ''disrespect'' means, by the way. If someone has no respect for you and acts in that way, they are insulting you.)

It sounds to me as though you're mad that you'll have to pay full price and you're trying to personalize it. Preschools are expensive.

Perhaps, instead of nursing hurt feelings, you can proactively go to the director and volunteer to give them five hours of ''free'' time per month for a reduced rate. That is a BUSINESS approach, rather than a ''personalized hurt feelings'' approach and would probably be the best thing to try. English Major

That doesn't really seem unfair to me. I'd pay up and move on. Consider it a donation if it makes you feel better. And if you still feel like you need to do something, you could mention to them that you would have felt better about it if they'd given you a month or two notice about their change in policy, rather than just a note with a higher bill. Just so that other people that could have a similar issue with in the future would feel better about. But this would be sort of a scolding, even if you said it nicely, so it probably depends on what your relationship is w/ them and whether you think it would make a difference. It is, of course, completely within their right to change their policy on discount tuitions, and you might need to recognize that. (and of course, it's within your right for your husband to limit how much work he does around the synagogue, but that may be a separate issue).

Sounds like you felt hurt that this organization didn't let you know about the change in policy sooner and in a nicer way. I can imagine that you feel bad about that but I think you should separate your feelings from your decision about your child's preschool. If you are happy with the school and he is happy there, why take him out because of something that has nothing to do with him? As to your hurt feelings - well, it doesn't sound like the new policy is unfair (in fact it sounds very generous) so maybe you can think about it as ''we were so lucky to have been given a discount all that time''. That's how it sounded to me. - eastbay mom

I would attempt to negotiate continuing at your current rate for at least the remainder of the year. Unfortunately these things do happen, and if they cannot accomodate you, don't take it personally. If you do indeed like the school and think it is a great fit for your child, sometimes that's just how life is. Stay and pay the price. I would. Let it go. Anon


My plans changed; preschool won't refund my deposit

Jan 2007

I had plans to enroll my 18-month-old in a Montessori program while continuing with my education. I had to pay a $75.00 application fee, as well as fork over a full month's tuition that ''was to be applied to your child's first month of tuition''. This $630.00 ''deposit'' was non-refundable. I was only slightly hesitant to do this because I had every intention of going to school Well, SURPRISE, I became pregnant. This has derailed my school plans slightly because the new baby is due in August. Not only will I not be able to attend school that fall as my baby will be too young, but as I can only transfer to my intended school in the fall, this leaves me with an extra semester empty. Because the children will be so close in age, I decided that the best time for my 18-month-old to take off would be this semester. I can devote exclusive time to her, and it will do my health good as the stress of finals would come up at the very end of pregnancy. Well, I wrote all of this with sincere apologies to the director of the Montessori school. I asked that if she could not refund the deposit, if my daughter could attend for the month. This would be really helpful to our family as I had nnot been able to attend my first prenatal appointment because I have NO ONE to care for my daughter. Plus, I don't like to pay $630 for absolutely NOTHING.

After a week of waiting for the director's reponse, I was admonished for waiting this long to reply to her as they had been expecting my child. However, I had sent a previous e-mail about my daughter's start date and never received a reply from her. The director went on to say that not only would the deposit not be refunded, but they would not allow my daughter to attend school only for the month. The only alternative she gave was for me to enroll my child in school either this semester or for the summer session. Otherwise, the deposit is forfeited. I must add that I need to find a program that accepts BOTH of my children as this Montessori program doesn't accept infants, so it would be a waste for my child to attend this school now. Can anyone advise me on organizations I can contact to either get my deposit back or get services for this large sum of money? Kari

I suggest you look over the contract and determine if you breeched the contract. Depending on how it is worded you might not be entitled to a refund. Even if you are not entitled, I would recommend meeting with the School Director face to face and discussing your situation. As a gesture of good will, will they refund your money or allow your daughter to attend school for that month? Ask again, ask in person. If not, I suggest contacting the better business bureau and the childcare referral program and inform them about your experience and see if they have any suggestions or advise on how to have your money returned to you. You could also sue in small claims court if you feel you are entitled to the money. Good Luck! Mare

I'm sorry to hear about your situation. But I think you should just let it go and focus on staying relaxed during this pregnancy. Typically when paying a non-refundable deposit you sign something saying that you understand that it is non-refundable, and it seems that you did understand and probably signed a document agreeing to this. That is a binding contract.

You didn't pay $630 for ''nothing'', you paid it to hold a spot for your child. The school relied on this and did hold a spot for your child. The school would argue that they provided a valuable service to you by holding the spot, to their own detriment. Just chalk it up as an expense of having a child. You're going to be spending a lot more just on diapers. My advice would be to move on and let it go. Congratulations and good luck with your pregnancy! anon


Preschool deposit is 3 months of tuition

April 2004


Our child is three and we are thinking about sending her to a preschool in Oakland, but are unsure because they are asking for a deposit of 3 months tuition with the annual contract. And we can't use those 3 months of tuition until the end of the school year if we decide not to renew the contract for the next year. Most of the other preschools we looked at only asked for one month's tuition as a deposit, and then that deposit is applied to the final month of tuition for the contract year. Unfortunately, they are already full. I'm interested in feedback on this--other parents' experiences, and whether any particular preschool is worth that kind of investment. anon

I have never heard of a preschool requiring more than one month's deposit, even the so-called ''selective'' preschools. Such a high deposit might make it hard to leave the school if it turned out that it was not a good fit for your child. I would refuse to pay it. Go to another school if necessary. Such a high deposit sounds like an indication of greed on the part of the preschool owner -- someone who would put money ahead of your child. There are many good preschools in this area.

I am pretty sure I know which school you're talking about. I moved to Oakland fairly recently and wanted to start my 3 year old around February (2004). They were the second place I called and I was thrilled that they had an opening and that my search had been so easy, but then I found out about the three month deposit as well as other one-time fees, payable up front and not prorated for starting mid-year, that add up to an additional $800-900. I was also not happy about the policy where, if you decide to terminate before the year is completed, you are still responsible for the remainder of the school year and are only released from it if they find a replacement child. I think part of the problem for me (which may not be your situation at all) is that the tuition and fees are geared for a full-time year-round program - I was looking for a part-time ten month program starting mid-year, and I felt penalized on every count by their fee structure. I didn't find any other schools with these requirements. So in spite of the fact that they have a very good reputation and I liked what I saw, I couldn't justify the total cost. To be honest, I couldn't help but feel that I was being taken. I still agonized for a few weeks about enrolling my child there, because of its reputation and its proximity to where I live. I now drive my child 15 minutes one-way (more with traffic) to school. There are obviously plenty of happy parents whose kids go to the school you're considering, and I don't think that preschools are rolling in dough, so I guess it just depends on your situation. Anon

My child attends a preschool which required a 3-month deposit (probably the same place you were referring to). I think you asked if it was worth it ... it certainly is a lot of money, and I do think it would be reasonable for them to reduce the amount and also to offer a trial period, both of these steps would make them more in sync with other preschools. The money itself wasn't a problem for us, but I was still pretty nervous writing that check and making that kind of commitment. That said, we are VERY happy at the school for many reasons. Also, our previous school (which actually was more expensive overall) required only a one-week deposit and 2 weeks notice to leave, and I think this may have been a factor in higher turnover. anon


Preschool promised to return deposit but hasn't yet

August 2004


My family was supposed to move to Walnut Creek this summer and so we had registered my twin sons at a local preschool to start this fall. We paid a total of $912.00 for 2 deposits ($300-something each) and 2 $100 teacher retention fees. Last April, our plans changed and I notified the school that we would not be attending the school after all. The director said she would get our money to us ASAP. It has now been four months and numerous phone calls with different answers each time (The check is in the mail, We'll get it out to you today....) and we have yet to see any money. I know there is some portion that is non- refundable, but ALL of it ($912.50!!!) seems excessive! My husband finally spoke to the owner one day and she said something about how they usually don't return the money but she would get a check out to us anyway but we still haven't seen anything. We are out of state and need the money but are getting really frustrated. Has anyone else ever had this kind of trouble with this school or any other school? How did you get your money back? We thought it was a great school but are really shocked at how this has been handled.

That sucks! Do you have anything in writing (e.g., the school's brochure or other paperwork sent to you initially) that references the school's refund policy? Regardless, I would send them a written letter stating that you are expecting a refund ASAP, as per your numerous former conversations (list the dates, if possible). As a last resort, and especially, if you have the paperwork outlining the refund policy, you can reference that you regret that you will have to pursue the matter in small claims court if they do not resolve this as soon as possible (even if you can't actually do so, being out of state, this phrase just might get them moving a little faster!) Good luck. Lisa

I agree with someone else who said you should write a letter asking for your deposit. Send it by certified mail with a return receipt requested as proof and if you don't get it back within the specified time, say 30 days, I would go to Small Claims court, where, if you prevail, you will can get your filing costs back, too. It's a hassle, but sometimes, it's the only thing that will get their attention. giselle

Try calling them everyday. Persistence pays. Call and ask if the check has been sent, if they say it'll be in the mail tomorrow to verify it was sent. If you don't get it in 2 days after they claimed to have sent it, call again. If they have to check with someone and will call you them again-don't wait for them to call you. If no one answers, leave lots of voicemails. Make notes of all your calls and voicemails incase you need to write a letter later. It's may not seem nice to do to a daycare...but they promised you a refund and should live up to it. Best of luck. anon


Preschool won't return deposit after withdrawal

Jan. 2004


It's been four months since we withdrew our toddler last September from a preschool in Berkeley , but we still haven't got our deposit back (we gave one month notice as required). We called the director many times and each time she just gave excuses that their accountant was not in the office or was on vacation. We had been waiting patiently for them to get back to us, but nothing happened. So we eventually went to her office one week ago to talk to her in person, thinking it might help solve the problem. But gosh, we were so wrong. We ended up going to her office again this afternoon to confront her, but she still gave us this same ''accountant leave of absence for today'' excuse. The whole situation has become so unbelievably frustrating and ridiculous and we just cannot take it any longer. I would love some suggestions as to what others have done in similar situation or advices as to what actions we should take. Thanks very much! Frustrating parents

It sounds as if you had a written agreement with the school that outlines the procedure for getting your deposit back and that you have followed those procedures, and then some, and have been unsuccessful. If that's the case, it's relatively simple to file a small claims court action and get a judgment against the school. You might try writing a letter first advising the school that you plan to take this action. It might spur them into making things right. oakland mom

You obviously won't get your deposit back by asking nicely. I would write a formal, simple letter demanding that she send you a check within X days, and that if you do not receive it you will sue her. Then if you don't get a check, follow through. File a small claims action. (Keep a copy of the letter, of course.) You might also make a complaint to the childcare licensing agency or some other appropriate authority, though I'm not sure who that would be. anon


Preschool contract requires entire year's tuition

August 2003


We are concerned about a provision in a preschool contract asks you to agree to pay for the entire year with no provision for withdrawal. We were just accepted. We'd like to be able to withdraw our child if he is unhappy or if for some other reason we can't attend. There is provision for the school to ask you to leave if they want to. But no escape clause for the parents. Is this common? What do parents do if their child is unhappy. Can it be negotiated. If anyone has experience with this, I'd appreciate hearing from you. Another school we considered had tuition insurance, has anyone had experience with that.

I have been looking around at preschools and have never heard of this arrangement. And if I had, I wouldn't do it. I would want to be sure that my child was ok in the preschool. There are also things that could come up 1, 2, 5, 6 months from now that I cannot anticipate, and I would want to be able to make a change or pull her out if I had to. That is a HUGE leap of faith and probably an equally huge amount of money to be giving to a place that should be working harder, if you ask me, to earn your trust and commitment. Another thing is, if the preschool is fairly decent, I would imagine that they would have a waiting list that they can draw from in case you (or any other parent) pulls their kid out. My daughter is about to start preschool, and I have only been asked for the deposit, which was about $500 and will ''hold'' her space for September. If we change our minds, I believe we lose this deposit. Preschool mom

Seems unfair doesn't it? The pre-school has an out, but you don't on the contract. We signed something similar with Hearts Leap and I actually wrote in that we would give them 30 days notice to cancel the contract in the event of a move, problems or any circumstance not under our control(e.g. medical problem etc.). We signed this contract with our written change on it. Personally I thought it was extremely unfair, but my husband(an attorney) said it was legally binding. Anon