Sequestration hits Adams County Head Start

Posted

Impending federal cuts that would shave off hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Adams County Head Start program has some local officials worried about how these cuts will be delivered and the future of residents enrolled in the program.

Adams County Head Start, which serves 545 children and their families at 11 locations throughout the county, is expected to lose about $182,000 in federal funding over the next year.

The result, Head Start and Human Services officials say, will be a 5 percent reduction in the program’s enrollment and a decline in contracted educational services through Adams County school districts.

Similar cuts to Head Start programs nationwide, which would take effect in the 2013-14 school year, is a part of the $85.4 billion in sequestered cuts targeted for 2013.

The cuts began on March 1 after Congress failed to pass a deficit-reduction plan. In all, Adams County Human Services Director Chris Kline said the cuts are expected to drop the county’s total student enrollment by 30 children.

What’s more, he said, about 1,100 Adams County children and their families are currently on the waiting list for the Head Start program.

“What I encourage anybody to do is to go into a kindergarten class, take a look and see how it would feel if that class wasn’t there anymore,” Adams County District 1 Commissioner Eva Henry said. “To which child would you say, `You can’t come back to school?’ Kids love school at 4 or 5 years old and it’s just sad.”

What is even more concerning, Henry said, is the fact that Head Start parents are also going to lose the support they need to raise their child, including job placement and other social services.

“It’s really unfortunate because the only way out of poverty is education,” Henry said. “If we don’t give those kids the basic structure and education, they’ve got a tough road ahead of them and a lot of these parents are not aware of how important it is to work with their kids at home.”

To help stave off some impacts of these cuts, Kline said the program is going to stop contracting educational services out students to Head Start-approved classrooms in county school districts, including Mapleton Public Schools and Adams County School District 14.

These services, he said, began about three years ago after Adams County Head Start officials received a grant to expand their services throughout the county.

Kline said it costs less for Adams County Head Start officials to run their own programs out of existing facilities because they are currently paying the cost-per-pupil charges for the school district.

Adams County Head Start Administrator Isebel Arellano said the move would also help ease the burden required by school districts to meet the estimated 2,000 mandatory performance and compliance standards required for all Head Start classrooms.

“If we administer all the educational slots for Head Start ourselves, we can go into some of the more needy areas in the Adams County communities whereas the only children that Mapleton is serving are those within their school boundary,” Kline said.