LA CROSSE, WI (WXOW)—Head Start programs around the country are feeling the effects of federal budget cuts.
Nationally, Head Start lost $400 million in funding, meaning 57,000 children did not have the opportunity to join the program.
Head Start is a learning center for children, three to five years old, to improve their school readiness. The program also offers medical and dental benefits to the children.
In our four county area, 90 percent of the people served at Head Start are low income families, the other ten percent have special needs.
"They learn to share with their peers and follow a routine and I think that gives them a little boost when they enter kindergarten," Joyce Ottum, Teacher, Head Start Child and Family Development Centers, Inc. said.
But this year, 18 kids in our area lost that opportunity when Head Start had to find a way to cut $140,000 locally.
"5.27 percent cut in our budget," Jim Vermeul, Executive Director, Head Start Child and Family Development Centers Inc. said. "It doesn't sound like a lot but it really impacts us because the year 2000 we have pretty much been flat funded. We haven't gotten any increase."
It left parents scrambling to find a place for their children in other programs.
"It impacts their ability to work, find day care and it's difficult for those families," Vermeul said.
All 70 Head Start employees took a pay cut and will have to take 6 furlough days this spring.
"When we lost a classroom of 18 that was pretty major, this way everyone's doing their part so we can take a little cut too so we don't have to cut other things," Ottum said.
And they'll be preparing snacks themselves in classrooms this year.
For now, their making the best of it.
"Hopefully congress and the president can resolve their differences this fall and we won't have to suffer any more budget cuts," Vermeul said.
Hoping the sting of federal budget cuts won't affect any more Head Start students.
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