Slots in the federal Head Start program are being trimmed from the program, and directors are being forced to cut hours and benefits for workers, according to a survey released last week by the National Head Start Association.
The Alexandria, Va.-based association said on Oct. 27 that its survey of Head Start directors, which was conducted by e-mail over the past several months, found that nearly 9,000 Head Start slots have been cut in the past three years. It also found that more than half of local Head Start programs have been forced to cut either staff or services or both, and that two-thirds of centers were expecting to have to make further reductions in 2005. Nationwide, Head Start serves about 900,000 preschoolers from poor families.
Sarah Greene, the association’s president, accused President Bush’s administration of trying to “dismantle” the program.
“Inadequate funding is slowly forcing programs to alter, and in some cases, kill services and teacher positions that otherwise would make a real difference in the lives of Head Start children,” she said.
Congressional Republicans fired back, accusing the National Head Start Association of lobbying against efforts in Congress to change the program. A press release from Republicans on the House Education and the Workforce Committee called the NHSA’s accusations of neglect “outrageous” and pointed out that funding for Head Start has reached a high of $6.8 billion this year and is expected to increase next year by $123 million.
Ms. Greene said the program needs at least $7.3 billion next year to provide Head Start slots to all eligible children.