Low-income children and families in Monroe County will soon feel the impact of sequestration cutbacks that are forcing the South Central Community Action Program to reduce its Head Start services and workforce.
As a result of federal sequestration, SCCAP must cut 5.1 percent from its Head Start budget, which amounts to $152,000. The impact of this cut is intensified by the timing of sequestration. Although the 5.1 percent cut applies to SCCAP’s annual Head Start budget, the agency has just seven months remaining in its program year, ending Nov. 30, in which the $152,000 in savings much be achieved.
The SCCAP Board of Directors and Head Start Parent Council voted Monday night to make the following cuts, which must be approved by the Head Start Regional Office in Chicago before they go into effect.
• Elimination of 12 slots for children ages 3 to 5 in Head Start. Closure of the program’s Head Start classroom at Lakeview Elementary. In addition to daily education in classrooms, this includes health and nutrition, special needs, family and social services for the children and families.
• Elimination of 25 home-based slots for children up to age 3 in Early Head Start. This involves home-based education and other services for children, as well as prenatal education and services for pregnant mothers.
• Suspension of Head Start transportation service at the end of this school year (currently157 children receive transportation). There will be no transportation services for summer or for the 2013-14 school year.
• Closure of Head Start for summer at an earlier date. The current Head Start school year will end on April 26, rather than its regular date of May 23.
• Head Start will be cut from 108 students to 36 students during summer 2013. This will involve a reduction from six summer classrooms to two.
• 15 SCCAP Head Start employees will lose their jobs. This will include teachers, teacher assistants, bus drivers, home visitors, managerial and administrative staff. In addition, more Head Start employees than usual will be laid off for the summer and the layoffs will come sooner. These summer layoffs, impacting 39 employees, will begin on May 3.
In planning these cuts, SCCAP leaders worked many hours to try to limit their impact on a program intended to help children from difficult economic circumstances to get a good start in school and a better chance on a life in which they break the cycle of poverty.
“It’s hard to cut without impacting families and kids,” SCCAP Executive Director Todd Lare said. “We tried to make these cuts in a way that would limit the number of Head Start slots lost, so that as many Monroe County children as possible continue to receive comprehensive child development services that will improve their lives.”
“It is difficult and sad to have to eliminate the positions of committed and caring Head Start employees, some who have worked here for many years, not because they were making a lot of money but because they valued contributing to the lives of countless young children,” Lare said. “It is so unfortunate that in making federal funding cuts, our elected officials are unable or unwilling to avoid cuts that hurt our most vulnerable citizens in this time of economic distress for so many.”
Lare and other SCCAP representatives met last week with Congressman Todd Young to discuss their concerns about sequestration cuts. Young told the group that members of Congress were not told in advance of the impact specific cuts from sequestration would have on their districts.