Sequester hits local Head Start program
Friday, March 29, 2013 11:00 AM
Budget reductions caused by the sequester stand-off in Washington are beginning to affect Jefferson County.
The Head Start program, part of Ohio Valley Opportunities Inc., received instructions to reduce their budget by 5 percent.
Head Start offers a development program for pre-school children. The immediate loss of funding forced Head Start to cut two Scott County classes and one Jefferson County class starting on April 1.
Seven employees - six full-time and one part-time - were also let go because of cuts.
The cuts are expected to affect 1,000 children in Indiana, according to an Ohio Valley Opportunities Inc. release.
Head Start Director Melanie Harrell said steps are being taken to ease the impact of the loss.
"We're hoping to absorb as many children as possible into classes we still have. We hope to absorb up to 15 children by expanding our class size. We're planning on expanding our size to 18 or 20 kids," Harrell said.
She added that changes in service were based on the least number of children and staff affected overall.
Families and staff were notified of the changes Wednesday.
"It's hard on these families and the staff," Harrell said. "They are very attached to these children. The three classes that will close early are having a closing party. That way they'll have a play date with friends again and get closure with teachers and staff.
"At this age it's important for children to have an ending. To know that that's over," Harrell said.
The remaining classes will end May 10, a few days earlier than initially planned. Harrell said that the sequester happened four months into their grant cycle, so the effects of the sequester will be in place next fall too.
The sequester is a string of automatic, across-the-board cuts to government-funded agencies totaling $85 billion this fiscal year and $1.2 trillion over a decade. The cuts are split down the middle between defense and domestic spending as an attempt to wrangle the national debt. The sequester had been pushed back several times by Congress, until March 1.
On Tuesday, President Obama signed a measure passed by Congress that would fund the day-to-day operating budgets of every Cabinet agency through the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30. Without the resolution, the national government would shut down until an agreement could be reached.