Head Start programs struggle against federal budget cuts
By Christin Nance Lazerus firstname.lastname@example.org August 25, 2013 8:38PM
Updated: August 25, 2013 8:47PM
The impact of federal sequestration cuts has been tough for Head Start preschool programs across the nation, but Northwest Indiana officials have so far avoided cutting students.
But the number of classrooms has been reduced, some teachers were laid off and students are in the classroom for a shorter amount of time. Statewide, 700 fewer children will be able to participate in Head Start programs for the 2013-14 school year and about 100 jobs are projected to eliminated. Nationwide, the 5 percent cut means 57,000 fewer children will receive Early Head Start and Head Start programming.
Geminus President Sanford Kauffman said the board looked at the best way to serve students without reducing the number of scholarships.
“It was a series of tough choices that we had to make,” Kauffman said. “At sites where eligible children were being served, the losses are being felt acutely.”
Communications officer Barbara Markle said Geminus Head Start serves 1,504 children from birth to age 5. The organization also connects families with wrap-around services from health care to day care.
“We’re here for families,” Markle said.
Previously, both full-day and half-day Head Start classes were offered across Northwest Indiana. Kauffman said the board decided to offer only half-day classes in the morning and afternoon for this school year, which starts Sept. 11.
“All of the research shows that you get good results, including socialization, with shorter classes,” Kauffman said.
By cutting the number of classrooms, Head Start did decide to stop offering classes in Chesterton and Hebron. But Kauffman said those students may have the option of participating in some home-based Head Start programs in their communities.
Head Start is also working with local school districts to provide quality preschool offerings.
“They’re pinched on the budget side as well, but they see the value of the programs,” Kauffman said.