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Cuts hit Head Start

Published 10:39pm Monday, July 15, 2013

Federal funding reductions are forcing the Children’s Center to cut one in 12 Early Head Start and Head Start slots in Western Tidewater, officials warn.

“We are losing about $250,000 total from federal dollars across the whole area,” Children’s Center Community Relations Coordinator Jeff Zeigler said, adding that the organization expects this year to lose about 5.2 percent of the federal dollars it normally receives.

At the Children’s Center off Wilroy Road, Camden Towns, 13 months old, and 8-month-old Garrett Bruehl get prepared for the years of education ahead. The center’s Early Head Start and Head Start programs will be reduced due to federal funding cuts.
At the Children’s Center off Wilroy Road, Camden Towns, 13 months old, and 8-month-old Garrett Bruehl get prepared for the years of education ahead. The center’s Early Head Start and Head Start programs will be reduced due to federal funding cuts.

The Children’s Center offers Early Head Start, for birth through children age 3, and Head Start, for ages 3 to 5, in Suffolk, Franklin, Isle of Wight and Southampton.

Prior to July 1 it was funded for 556 children, Zeigler said, but 46 fewer slots will now be offered.

“You don’t want to cut any kids, because those 46 kids will have to find different opportunities than Head Start, and hopefully they will be able to,” Zeigler said. “The main goal (of both programs) is to get children ready for kindergarten, and that’s 46 kids that won’t have the service.”

The benefits of Head Start go beyond the classroom. Children receive health screenings, for instance. Staff members make sure participants have health insurance and a family doctor, Zeigler said.

“We make sure they have had all their shots,” he said. “Plus, a lot of it has to do with parental involvement, and we have parent meetings and things like that. The impact is a lot bigger than just the children that won’t be in the classroom.”

One full-time member of staff has been laid off, Zeigler said, adding further retrenchments have been avoided by “moving staff around to different buildings,” and by the fact that many positions had gone unfilled.

“Since last year when we acquired Head Start, I don’t think we ever had a full suite of employees,” he said.

The center hopes for better news when the 2014 budget process starts on Oct. 1, he said.

“We’re hoping at some point the federal government will return funding to what it was.”

Zeigler said the U.S. Senate has proposed restoring funding. “I don’t know if that will get past the House or not,” he said.

Other Head Start programs across the state are reporting similar impacts from the sequestration federal budget cuts.

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