VIDEO: Guam Averts Cuts in Its Head Start Program, For Now

210

Washington D.C. – 57-thousand children will be cut from Head Start this year, due to ongoing “Sequestration” budget cuts. But hundreds of Guam pre-schoolers won’t be among them.

Head Start and Early Head Start felt a more than $5.24% cut in their $8-billion dollar budget. That, after Congress enacted the 10-year, $1.2 trillion dollar across-the-board “sequester” in March. 

HEAR Matt Kaye’s report HERE>>>08-23 headstart cuts fuentes.mp3

But Guam was one of several jurisdictions that was able to avoid reducing the number of pre-schoolers in the program that prepares disadvantaged kids for school, provides health screening and free day care for struggling parents.

Yvette Sanchez Fuentes is Director of the National Head Start office at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

FUENTES: “Basically, all programs have to take a 5% cut. But, at the Office of Head Start, we were able to give programs some flexibility, in how the ended up taking the cut.  So, for example, in Guam, they looked at some of the other services, or some of the other things that they pay for, and figured out ways to take it out of those things.”

Guam’s program had to save thousands of dollars.  But with adjustments to staffing, operations and equipment, 534 guam pre-schoolers were able to stay in head start.but Fuentes says things could get tougher, if sequestration continues.

FUENTES: “The budget control act does have another trigger in it, if Congress doesn’t come to a resolution on the budget.  And that trigger would kick on January 1st.  And so, we’ll have to wait to see what happens over the next two-months…and then figure out, how we can continue to support our programs. But, its going to only get tougher, as programs cut back on these other things.”

Fuentes says her office told programs around the nation to above all, maintain safety and quality.

Guam Head Start had to cut vehicle maintenance, custodial, parent activity, direct health services and computer-printer supplies accounts.

It also held off adding another one or two ‘mentor’ teachers this year,  and has over the years, hired only limited-term staff, including just 2 full-time teachers and 15 part-time teacher aides.

Guam Program Director Catherine Schroeder says with a possible increase in GovGuam salaries, she may still need to decrease enrollment, or look at other options.

And Fuentes says many programs already have a waiting list. Last year, Guam head start had 500 on its waiting list  and expects to see the same, this year.

All this means, even fewer kids under the poverty line will get the chance to go to Head Start, if the cutting continues.