Sequester cuts being felt at Head Start

While congressional wrangling over the sequester is fast becoming a memory, for many programs, the impact of the arbitrary budget cuts are just beginning to be felt.

One such program in Pennsylvania is Head Start.

According to the Pennsylvania Head Start Association (PHSA), Head Start programs found out on April 26 just how deep cuts would go.

In Pennsylvania, Head Start programs are set to see a budget cut of 5.27 percent. With federal program funding in the state over $256.5 million, the association said more than $13.5 million will be cut.

The association estimates the cuts will result in elimination of more than 1,500 of the total 31,000 children served by Head Start programs in the state.

Locally, the Warren Forest Economic Opportunity Council’s (EOC) Head Start program has a fiscal year that ends in June, so the 5.27 percent cut won’t take effect until fiscal 2013 grant money begins funding the program in July.

“Beginning July 1, 2013, the program will experience the cut which amounts to $76,679,” according to EOC Head Start Director Roxanne Carifo, “a difference that is sure to be felt.”

EOC Head Start program cuts will be largely focused on Forest County, “mainly due to the lack of eligible children for the past six years,” Carifo said.

The program will be closing its Lottsville Center and decreasing enrollment by ten children.

Carifo said no layoffs are anticipated and the number of service days for children is not expected to decrease.

“Historically, Head Start has led the early childhood field with a strong, clear and comprehensive focus on all aspects of healthy development, including physical, cognitive, social and emotional development, all of which are essential to children getting ready for school,” Carifo said. “The Warren Forest EOC Head Start program will continue to provide and maintain high-quality, comprehensive services to children and families and ensure their health and safety.”

The PHSA pointed out the cuts are long-term in nature.

“Some people have the impression the cuts are only for one year,” a PHSA press release said. “The sequester cuts (Budget Control Act) are in place for ten years and will last for at least ten years unless Congress acts to overturn the sequester cuts for Head Start. The Pennsylvania Head Start Association and the Head Start community strongly urge the administration and Congress to release Head Start programs from the Budget Control Act and restore Head Start funding.”