Cuts limit Head Start

There will be 17 fewer children taking part in the Washington-Morgan Community Action’s 2013-2014 Head Start program due to federal funding cuts resulting from sequestration.

“That’s half of a kindergarten class at this school,” said Melissa Doan, manager of the Early Head Start program at the Jane Edwards Head Start Center in Marietta.

“These cuts always hurt everyone, but we’ll still be providing the same quality service for the local community,” Doan added.

Statewide the federal sequestration has reduced Ohio Head Start rolls by 1,817 students, and Early Head Start by 180 children this year.

Rachel Shipley, director of Head Start and Early Head Start for Washington-Morgan Community Action, said in 2012 federal dollars allocated to the local programs provided for a total of 274 Head Start students and 40 Early Head Start children.

“But, like most other government-funded agencies, we’ve taken a 5.27 percent reduction in our grant funding due to sequestration at the federal level. That’s $117,421 in local funding,” she said. “And with that reduction we had to reduce the number of slots for children this year by 17 who, along with their families, will not receive services through the Head Start program.”

In addition to fewer Head Start students, Shipley said other reductions have been made to keep the program afloat, including the laying off of one part-time bus monitor and the elimination of busing for Head Start students in Belpre.

“We also did not fill a vacant school bus driver position and two teacher aide positions this year to help save on personnel costs,” she added.

The local program has plenty of company. Across the state Head Start operating dollars have been reduced by a total $13,129,844, and Early Head Start dollars by $1,685,690, according to a report from the Ohio Head Start Association, Inc.

The association also reports that 304 full time jobs have been cut and 12 reduced to part time in Ohio because of the sequestration.

Shipley noted changes are also being made in the way local Head Start and Early Head Start programs receive funding.

“Our grant used to be awarded for an indefinite period, but now we must apply for a five-year grant by Jan. 1,” she said.

That won’t be a competitive grant, Shipley said, because the local Head Start program is rated in good standing by the feds. But she added that Head Start programs in other areas that are rated as having poor standing will have to compete for their grant funding.

It’s not just the children, but families also who are impacted by reductions due to the sequestration, Shipley said.

“The families of the children we work with are dealing with many everyday stressors, and we want to help them so they can become involved with their child’s education, like helping with homework,” she said. “We want to make sure families are ready for their child’s kindergarten experience.”

Early Head Start is for children from birth to 3 years old and Head Start provides services for ages 3 through 5.

Shipley said the Head Start regional office has told local offices to expect the current lower funding levels to continue for the immediate future.

“We’ll just have to wait to see what the federal government finally decides to do,” she said.