Survey: Two-Thirds of Head Start Programs Expect Service, Staff Cuts in 2005
Despite being one of the most successful programs in the federal government, Head Start, which gets America’s poorest children ready to learn in kindergarten and beyond, is in a bad way today after three years of “neglect and disdain,” according to a recent survey by the National Head Start Association (NHSA).
Among the problems highlighted in new data from NHSA: Almost 9,000 slots for poor children have been trimmed from the program, the percentage of eligible children served by Head Start and Early Head Start programs has eroded to 20 percent, and half of local Head Start grantees have been forced to cut services and/or staffing during the past two years.
The association warned that even more “de facto dismantling” of Head Start is in the works, with about two-thirds of programs expecting to cut services (such as hours of operations, the length of the school-calendar year and programs for disabled children) and/or staff (including degreed teachers) during fiscal year 2005.
NHSA President and CEO Sarah Greene said: “What we are seeing is that you don’t have to dismantle Head Start through block granting to the states to effectively undermine this fine program serving America’s most at-risk children. Inadequate funding is slowly forcing programs to alter and, in some cases, kill services and teacher positions that otherwise would make a real difference in the lives of Head Start children. Ironically, the funds are drying up at the very point where demands are being placed on Head Start programs to hire more teachers with degrees. It may turn out that the most effective way to ‘prove’ the case for dismantling Head Start is by making it quite literally impossible for local grantees to do their job.”
NHSA Board Chairman Ron Herndon, who also is director of the Albina Head Start program (Portland, Ore.), said: “We are putting Head Start programs in a 10-foot hole and then handing them a five-foot ladder to use to climb out of that hole. The result is a largely hidden legacy of neglect and disdain that is clearly part of a de facto effort to dismantle Head Start. An alarming number of programs are reporting that they cannot afford to train their staff and provide safe transportation. We cannot stand by and watch as these programs struggle to squeeze everything out of every nickel available to them (and) are then accused of not getting their job done.”
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