For this week’s Regional Report, we turn to Washington County in New York where the sequestration budget cuts impacted a Head Start program.
The education program suffered a 5.2 percent budget cut this April. Those effects are being felt now, with one center just over the Vermont border in Cambridge, New York closing its doors. Head Start also eliminated a six-week summer program.
Elizabeth Conkey of the Bennington Banner reports that the closure comes after a $200,000 cut to the budget.
“Families are left scrambling to find other plans, other childcare options for the summer as most of them work,” says Conkey.
Many parents were relying on Head Start as their sole child care provider. Conkey says the program provides the benefit of pre-school to children whose families may not be able to afford to pay out-of-pocket:
“It helps these children get used to the fact that they will be in a school environment, learning,” says Conkey. “It also builds an element of trust with an adult figure other than their parents.”
Families still have some choices. Head Start held information sessions for parents to offer suggestions on alternate programs. However, many of those alternatives cost money: some up to $175 per week. Conkey said financial aid or scholarships may be available in some situations.
Conkey says that the government has warned Washington County that more cuts could impact this program in the future.