Groupon denies deal for faith-based Mesa preschool

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

MESA, Ariz. -- A Mesa preschool is in a heated dispute with Groupon, the online deal-making company.

Munchkin's Preschool
, near Power and Baseline roads, opened in August.  

Enrollment is far below capacity. The school was built to house 120 preschoolers, but only 30 are enrolled.

To boost numbers, staff contacted Groupon to create a deal to attract parents.

"We were expecting, from what we saw of other preschools running Groupons, it could be 50 percent or 60 percent of our business," said Tracy Tingue, a partner in the school.

"It was going to be a great offer of $200 in tuition for $20," he said.

Tingue says staff at Groupon canceled the deal after finding out the preschool is "faith-based," a phrase printed on its ads and website.

"We talk about prayers before meals, and we do tell basic Bible stories," Tingue said.

"We hope to start from a young age just building morals and values that they can take with them," Janel McElwain told 3TV.

The preschool allows children of all denominations.

In an email, a Groupon official told Tingue in part, "We are not able to work with your faith-based business as of right now."

Another Groupon representative told 3TV that the company has, indeed, offered several deals involving faith-based companies in the past. He cited a Jewish Community Center membership deal, a Christian store deal and several others.

The Groupon representative declined to elaborate on why the preschool's deal was canceled over its faith base.

"We're no different from anybody else. We should get the same treatment as any other business," McElwain said.

Munchkin's staff members are now looking to work with some of Groupon's competitors.