Area head start programs feel sting of sequestration, forced to make tough choices

Area head start programs feel sting of sequestration, forced to make tough choices
Photo provided by staff

POSTED: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 - 5:30pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 - 7:12pm

This year Head Start programs between Livingston and Washington Parish were forced to make some hard decisions when they had some major cuts. Just two weeks in to their school year the early education providers are starting to feel the sting of sequestration.

The kids at the Springfield Head Start in Livingston Parish are quite busy learning and working; but just down the hall other class rooms that used to house young children, sit empty.

"The cuts this year are really big. We lost two very important family members that they had to let go. And we also lost 20 children because they cut a class room. so it's major for our center," shared Wanda Patrick, a teacher at the Springfield Head Start.

Cutting 20 slots translates to more young children sitting on the waiting list.

"I am unable to see the waiting list, but I know it's a lot because I’ve done a lot of applications this year. The phone rings everyday. We’re getting several phone calls, either families wanting to apply or asking 'did my child get in?' we just had to explain to them that this year we're only accepting 100 children instead of 120," shared Kim Decota, a family advocate at the center.

With an almost 6% cut across the board, executive director Susan Spring was forced to cut 22 employees, 80 head start slots and 16 early head start slots.

"The fact that they're just not able to come this year has meant those children are cut, those families are not being served and they're all needy children and at-risk families that we're serving," explained Spring.

Though Spring was forced to make some major cuts this year, she worries the same thing will happen when the next budget rolls around.

"20 of them would be here! But they're still on the wait list. so it is hard, to be able to know that the money has been there and that this year it's not there and waiting to see what they'll do about next year because of sequestration because the law implements this for year's to come," said Spring.

The Regina Coeli Child Development Center serves five parishes in Southeast Louisiana and has 14 head start facilities under its umbrella.

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