School district considering changes to save big $ on Head Start
IF THE school district does nothing to find funding for its Head Start programs, about 500 children will be unable to secure a seat in the pre-K initiative, a district official told the School Reform Commission on Thursday.
"If we make no changes in our current program structure at the current rate and we do not receive increased funding, we would have a significant gap," said Renee Queen Jackson, deputy chief of the Office of Early Childhood Education.
Jackson spoke about the need to increase the number of partnerships with community agencies that could run Head Start at a lower rate. A partner classroom would cost the district $8,300, while a Head Start class run inside the district would cost $11,700, she said.
Jackson was heckled when she brought up this particular figure, her critics claiming that Head Start teachers in partner classrooms aren't certified.
The district has budgeted $68.5 million for Head Start programs in the current school year. About a quarter of the 6,182 kids are enrolled in the program through community agencies.
Federal Title I funds make up 26 percent of the program's revenue, and those funds, which also go toward other programs, are expected to fall by $70 million to $80 million overall in fiscal year 2014, district Chief Financial Officer Matt Stanski estimated. He attributed the drop to the end of stimulus funding, federal budget cuts stemming from the sequester and a general reduction in Title I funds.
Christie Balka, director of child care and budget policy at Public Citizens for Children and Youth, expressed concern over the potential for cuts to early education.
"It seems every year I have testified about the need for the school district to provide more high-quality pre-K, not less," Balka said.
Head Start capacity has declined 10 percent in five years, she said, warning that "if close attention is not paid, the district could lose an important educational asset."
On Twitter: @ReginaMedina