CINCINNATI: The number of low-income children in Head Start’s preschool programs in Ohio will drop by more than 1,800 during this school year because of automatic federal spending cuts.
The Office of Head Start says those cuts will reduce its preschool ranks by more than 57,000 children nationwide. More than a million children are served each year by the programs, which help prepare them for elementary school and give them meals and health care.
“This is the first real cut we’ve ever had,” said Barbara Haxton, executive director of Ohio Head Start Association Inc.
“People should care because there are 2,000 or more children whose educational future is at high risk,” she told The Cincinnati Enquirer (http://cin.ci/1d24hLt ). “We just left … them out in the cold.”
Nearly all the Ohio Head Start preschools and affiliates have cut teachers and student waiting lists. Haxton said the cuts also mean no services, such as health care, for nearly 200 Ohio babies and their families.
In Hamilton County, 181 children will lose places in program preschools, and some 300 workers have been laid off and hours cut for 90 more to offset a $1.2 million cut, The Enquirer reported. In neighboring northern Kentucky, an official said busing will be cut for 400 to 500 preschoolers.
“It’s reducing options for the children who are most in need,” said Florence Tandy, executive director of the Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission.
To be eligible, a family’s income must be below the federal poverty guideline, which is $23,550 for a family of four. Head Start prepares 3- to 5-year-olds for kindergarten and elementary school, while offering families and children health, nutrition, education and social services. It also supports pregnant women.
Some critics for years have questioned the quality, cost and long-term impact of the program that dates to 1965. Advocates say it makes sure children’s brains are stimulated with learning at key early stages of development and prevents them from falling behind.
Information from: The Cincinnati Enquirer, www.enquirer.com