MOUNT VERNON — Funding for the local Head Start programs is in danger of being cut, if federal bills currently up for proposal are approved. Head Start programs at the local, state and national level are up for budget cut consideration in Senate and House of Representative proceedings.
It was announced in the News in September 2010 that Knox County Head Start was to be the recipient of a $200,000 Centers for Excellence in Early Childhood program grant through the Department of Health and Human Services, based on its innovative practices to improve services. Now included in the proposed Spending Reduction Act of 2011 “to reduce Federal spending by $2.5 trillion through Fiscal Year 2021,” Section 506 of Title V, Program Eliminations and Related Provisions, calls for the repeal of the Head Start Act program. If approved, this would mean elimination of the expansion of the five-year grant, ending these funds on Sept. 29.
“This would affect lots of jobs,” said Peg Tazewell, executive director of Knox County Head Start. Tazewell explained that the local Head Start program incorporates programs for children ages 3 to 5; and that Early Head Start serves pregnant mothers, infants and toddlers.
“Just like any family that accumulates too much debt, Congress must now set priorities and cut back on the spending until our budget is back under control,” said Ohio District 4 Rep. Jim Jordan. “Some worthwhile projects may go unfunded for a time, but that is the unfortunate price we must pay for Washington’s past irresponsibility.” Jordan is a sponsor of the Spending Reduction Act. Ohio’s District 4 includes Morrow and Richland counties, representing those in the Bellville, Butler, Sparta and Chesterville areas.
Meghan Snyder, press secretary for Jordan, stated the Spending Reduction Act is currently being reviewed in the House and will later go to Senate upon House approval.
“It’s not up for a vote yet,” said Snyder. “This bill was introduced in January and is being studied as a means of cutting expenses.” If the bill is approved, it is not known when and if these Head Start grants could be recovered.
Also up for consideration is H.R. 1 which if passed would eliminate the local Foster Grandparent program through Head Start.
“This would have a real impact on children and families,” said Tazewell. “It will mean loss of jobs and loss of resources. This program really lets us know if the children are ready for kindergarten.”
Although there was a two-week extension approved, “it doesn’t look hopeful that a budget agreement is reached by March 18,” according to Tazewell. “We’re just trying to be positive community-wide.”
The Foster Grandparent program pairs volunteers up with students on a one-on-one basis.
“This program means the difference of being able to keep food and prescriptions on their table,” said Tazewell. “We’re trying to plan, especially making multiple plans. We need to know ‘what happens if ... ,’” she said. Passage of H.R. 1 would mean 9,109 student spaces lost in Ohio as well as 1,910 jobs lost.
“I voted for the largest reduction in discretionary spending in the history of our nation,” said 18th District Congressional Rep. Bob Gibbs. “H.R. 1 is over five times larger than any other discretionary cut package ever considered by the House, representing a significant and historic step toward addressing Washington’s out-of-control government spending. We must make some tough, but responsible decisions so we can get this nation back on a sustainable financial path.”
H.R. 1, which recently received House approval, is now in the hands of the Senate. Calls to Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown’s office concerning the status of H.R. 1 were unreturned.