In a move to make up for cuts in federal funding due to the sequester that has been in the news as of late, the local Head Start program is eliminating transportation and other programs.
A letter went out recently to parents and guardians with children in the program stating that the cuts have affected the Head Start program in several ways. One, and perhaps the move that hurts more families than any, is that all bus transportation will discontinue on March 18. The letter was sent out shortly after the sequestration took place on March 1 to give the parents a couple of weeks to try to find alternate means of transportation. According to the letter, “Every effort will be made to reinstate transportation services starting in August.”
The cut in bus transportation is going to make things difficult, say many parents.
“I may pull my child out of Head Start due to not having the money to get him to school,” said April Ellis. “We live eight miles away from town and the Head Start bus is a huge help getting my baby to school and back. We are not happy about the bus losing their funds but what else can anyone do.”
Head Start officials aren’t happy about having to cut back on programs, either.
“Immediate impacts to the program are being felt as a result of sequestration,” said Debbie Thomas, director for the Head Start program. “Unlike other Head Start agencies, our program is one-quarter into the 2013 fiscal year. We are forced to absorb a five percent reduction in annual funding in a nine-month period of time. Our main objective is to maintain as many services as possible to children and families. However, due to rising gas prices, transportation to and from the centers will cease. Bus monitors and drivers will be laid off on that day.”
In addition to the transportation cuts, all field trips until the end of the year are being cancelled and the “Fatherhood Reading Program” is being eliminated, according to the letter.
“More employee lay-offs and program changes are going to take effect as planning continues,” Thomas said. “Tough decisions are required to be made that will directly impact people’s life, which include the families of our own staff.”
Those families affected by the cuts in the program are dealing with it in the best way they can.
“Well, the Head Start program was great; now I have two little boys who will not be attending after March 18,” said parent Crystal Maiden. “I have a newborn baby and can’t drag him in and out, plus I have three girls who are in school and I can’t afford to make four different trips to the school. They start at different times and are released hours apart.”
Officials hope the gloomy outlook will change.
“It’s distressing, decisions are not being taken lightly, and all scenarios are being considered,” said Thomas.
Cuts in federal funding will also affect other local programs, but as of press time programs such as the Claiborne County School System could not confirm what effect the cuts will have.
“We will have cuts in funding but until I get definite numbers I won’t know the impact on our current budget,” said Connie Holdway, director of schools.