ANDERSON, Ind. — Federal spending cuts to Head Start, a federal preschool program providing educational services to low-income children, resulted in the elimination of 22 educational slots and a reduction in transportation services for children in Delaware and Madison counties.
According to the National Head Start Association, 5 percent of the program’s $8 billion budget was cut after Congress enacted a sequestration of $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts for the next 10 years.
Sherry Edwards, a Head Start state official, said the cuts resulted in 20 educational slots being eliminated from the program in Madison County and two slots being eliminated in Delaware County.
She said the reduction in funding has directly affected the Anderson, Pendleton, Muncie and Elwood sites where more than 600 students received services in 2012. This year about 57,000 children, nationwide, seeking Head Start services will be turned away, including more than 700 children in Indiana, because of cuts in funding.
“We have had to cut about half of our transportation in both of our counties,” Edwards said. “We are trying to serve the neediest of families who can really use the transportation to make sure their child gets to school. As you can well imagine, sequestration is devastating for all of our programs nationwide.”
Edwards said children living on public transportation routes will not be offered transportation this year.
Pam Richard, Head Start state education disability coordinator, said schools will also feel the consequences of the sequestration as fewer children will be ready for their first year of school.
Edwards said Head Start will strive to maintain and provide quality programs for children in the community, but it will be difficult without full funding. She said if the program experiences another round of cuts through sequestration it will take a huge toll on Head Start that could result in fewer educational slots or the elimination of transportation.
“It is just devastating,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.