Head Start Suffering From Federal Sequester

The federal sequester has caused nearly 5.3 percent in cuts to Indiana’s Head Start programs, and most of them are dealing with the reduction in funding by cutting enrollment. According to Cheryl Miller, executive director of the Indiana Head Start Association, that means hundreds of Hoosier children will miss out on preschool education and services come fall. A year down the road, kindergarten teachers will notice the impact.

“We’re going to have elementary schools that are going to be impacted by this too, because those children probably are going to come to kindergarten not having had any kind of high-quality preschool experience,” said Miller.

But enrollment isn’t the only aspect of Head Start suffering from the sequester. Miller said Head Start programs around the state have been forced to cut teachers, managers and, in some cases, entire classrooms. She said the ripple effect carries on, impacting families as well.

“We have a lot of parents whose children are in Head Start and they’re able to go to work – or they’re able to go back to school. So, the impact that we make on families is going to be adversely affected by the fact that their children will not be enrolled in Head Start,” Miller explained.

However, Miller said the cuts are being made in such a way as to not alter the integrity of the programs.

“That’s one of the strong messages that Head Start and Early Head Start received from the Office of Head Start at the federal level: we are not, in any way, to compromise the quality of this program,” said Miller. (07-31-13 – Miller – Quality of This Program)

The association director said more than 15,600 kids were in Head Start programs in the Hoosier state last year, and about half that many are typically on waiting lists. As a result of these cuts and the belt-tightening, this year, that waiting list will be longer.