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Sequestration cuts may impact local Head Start program

By Kristen Pope, Reporter, kpope@ktxs.com
Published On: Apr 02 2013 08:59:55 PM CDT
ABILENE, Texas -

Threats of sequestration cuts are barreling towards federal programs like Head Start as soon as May.

On Tuesday, hundreds of parents filled the Abilene Civic Center to register their children for Head Start.  The program currently has a waiting list of 400 children ranging from prekindergarten to five years old.

Abilene parent Tila Beason was on the waiting list for Head Start last year. This time, she's hoping the outcome will be different.

"My daughter was ready at three," said Beason. "She was ready and excited. She wanted to be in school and I would rather her be in school than a daycare because they are already starting the learning process."

There aren't many affordable alternatives for Beason, that will also prepare her daughter for school.

"Children who are in a high quality prekindergarten program often do better in schools so there's fewer referrals to special Ed," said Abilene ISD Director of Early Childhood Cheryl Cunningham. "There is fewer discipline issues. They enter the criminal justice system at a far smaller rate."

Beason said, "It's a very long process. You have to make sure you bring everything. If you don't they turn you away."

As funding goes down the need continues to go up, with fewer options. Most alternatives are options like home day care and or other for profit organizations. While Tila is hopeful, in the unfortunate event that she doesn't get a spot, she said, "We'll just have to hope for next year. Find a good day care."

Cuts could range anywhere from 24 to 100 kids. About 90 percent of the Head Start budget is personnel. Normally, the impact is felt over time. Abilene ISD is planning for cuts as big as 10 percent.