Cuts concern Head Start officials

WARREN – Trumbull Community Action Program’s Head Start was able to overcome the federal across-the-board spending cuts known as sequester in May with zero cuts, but that’s unlikely to happen again should a second round happen next year.

The pre-kindergarten program was dinged for about $250,000 – a blow cushioned, in part, by teacher retirements and slicing off a week – and is facing the loss of $100,000 more, which could impact pupil instruction.

TCAP president and CEO James W. Abicht said if there’s a further reduction in January, fewer children would be enrolled and eliminations could reach at least one class, teacher, teacher’s assistant, family advocate, bus driver, bus driver’s aide and there may be cuts administratively, too.

What he called probably the lone remaining ”original war on poverty program from the 1960s” operated on a $4.75 million budget last year. The grant that will let the program run through Oct. 31, 2014, is for $4.5 million.

”The grant money is vital for us,” said Abicht, who joined U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan in the gymnasium of the former West Junior High School after the Democrat toured the TCAP facility Monday.

TCAP’s Head Start operates in eight centers across Trumbull County and fully funded, can provide instruction to 669 pupils. The program is the largest at TCAP’s Warren headquarters, where there are 11 classrooms and a math/science lab pupils attended twice a week for 35 minutes each. Three hundred fifty kids are enrolled there in morning and afternoon classes.

Jeanne Wall, vice president of education, said the program lets economically disadvantaged kids start off on ”a level playing field” when they reach kindergarten.

The program provides academics, social and emotional training, some health care, meals, transportation and family social work. ”If the family is solid, then the kids will be solid,” Wall said.

Head Start has ”been proven to be effective, even though the naysayers constantly try to say it’s not effective and it prepares these children because they don’t have this preparation in their home,” Abicht said. ”That’s why we also work with the parents to help them with their parenting skills.”

TCAP also offers programs that help parents of Head Start pupils obtain their GED, a food co-op and food buying club, a winter emergency energy assistance program and transportation. It has been at the Palmyra Road S.W. building for 20 years.

”This is all about giving your children and people who want to get back in the work force a hand up, not a hand out,” Ryan said. ”These are people who are showing initiative, these are the future workers in our community and these are great investments that we need to continue to make.”

Ryan said the U.S. House and Senate are trying to reconcile and get some budget together, one that would begin a 10-year deficit reduction plan in place.

”But we’ve got to get away from this, ‘everything that the government does is bad and if you don’t cut it severely, we’re going to shut it down,”’ Ryan said. ”That’s no way to run a railroad and unfortunately, that is what is happening now.”