Cuts could hit Head Start

Students and teachers in Mahoning and Trumbull counties could be affected by a federal funding hit to Head Start programs.

The across-the-board budget cuts went into effect in late February after the Super Committee on Deficit Reduction failed in its plan to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion over 10 years.

Head Start will see a 5.1 percent reduction in funding as a result of the automatic cuts, which could mean a loss of 70,000 children and 14,000 staff nationwide, according to the National Head Start Association.

The cuts will mean a loss of more than $100,000 for the Mahoning Youngstown Head Start program.

“It can impact the program, it can impact the staff … the most traumatic impact is going to be families,” said Doug Sherl, Mahoning-Youngstown Community Action Program board member and chairman of MYCAP Head Start policy council. “Our program enriches the lives of the children and the families that need it the most. It’s troubling to me that they’d start cutting it at the bottom.”

Sherl said MYCAP is going to start strategizing now to determine which direction the program will take in light of the looming cuts, beginning with the next council meeting.

Of the 1,003 children that MYCAP serves, it is looking at a potential cut of more than 50 children, Sherl said, depending on which direction the program takes.

“MYCAP has been lucky because our budget year begins on Aug. 1,” he said, explaining that their programs were not immediately affected by the cuts.

“We’ve had a little bit of a buffer zone but some whose budgets began in October had to make decisions midstream,” he said.

The government is leaving it up to programs individually as to how the cuts will be allocated, said Trumbull Community Action Program vice president of education Jeanne Wall.

TCAP operates the Head Start program in Trumbull County.

“I’m sure we’ll feel the pinch, but we haven’t determined what we are going to do yet,” she said, adding that the government supplied them with some ideas to reduce costs, including shortening the school year and cutting the number of student slots.

“Hopefully, we won’t have to do either. We have to sit down and see what’s the best thing to do for everyone involved,” she said.

Sherl also encouraged community members to get involved and support their local Head Start agencies.

“When Head Start arrives ultimately at where it’s at, the parents will have some say in the direction that the agency goes in relation to the cuts. At the end of the day, we’re all praying that there will be some retraction,” Sherl said.