Sequestration forces cuts to Head Start

by Sarah Fay Campbell

The federal budget cuts known as "sequestration" have hit the local Head Start early learning program, causing the closing of one of the three Head Start centers in Coweta and the elimination of the lim- ited transportation services provided at some Head Start centers.

The Head Start and Early Head Start programs in Coweta County are provided through Community Action for Improvement. CAFI pro- vides Head Start and other services in the six-county area of Coweta, Carroll, Heard, Meri- wether, Harris and Troup.

The budget cuts led to a 5.27 percent decrease in the federal funding for CAFI's Head Start program, said Angela Jackson- Owens, director of Head Start for CAFI. That total hit was approximately $400,000. Federal money accounts for 80 percent of CAFI's Head Start funding. The rest is donations and in-kind services.

The small Head Start program at the Verona Rosser Center in Savannah Street in Newnan was closed, Jackson-Owens said, and enrollment cuts were made at the other centers, in East Newnan and Haralson. A center in Harris County was also closed.

Total enrollment was reduced from 880 to 811 children, Jackson-Owens said. The Early Head Start program still serves 220 children.

CAFI had been offering limited transportation to the Haralson, LaGrange, Greenville and Manchester centers, but had to eliminate that. The transportation cuts affected less than 200 children, Jackson-Owens said. The transportation cuts were a hardship for some families but, so far, haven't affected attendance, she said.

Some employees also lost their jobs. Sequestration took effect March 1, but all the changes took effect for the new school year.

The Verona Rosser center had been serving 36 children. That's compared to 130 in East Newnan through the Head Start, Early Head Start and Pre-k programs. There are 44 students at the Haralson center.

Head Start is a program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that pro- vides comprehensive educational, health, nutrition and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families. Pre-K programs were modeled after Head Start. Head Start is for 3- and 4-year- olds, and Early Head Start is for pregnant women and children up to age 3. Eligibility is based on income.

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