News Column

Indian's Head Start Facing Steep Cuts

April 22, 2013

The federal sequestration will slash classes and programs designed for impoverished and working-class residents and children in Southern Indiana unless Congress approves a budget soon.

Officials with Community Action of Southern Indiana confirmed that among the cuts the organization is facing, it will likely have to end its summer Head Start program effective June 30.

The classes are for children ages 3 to 5, and parents who are attending school or working during the day can enroll their kids in the Head Start summer program.

Around 90 kids could be affected by the elimination of the program, and Head Start Director Joy Shanks said there's consistently a waiting list for the summer classes.

CASI's Head Start program -- which serves families in Charlestown, Sellersburg, Jeffersonville and Underwood -- will lose about $140,000 in funding due to the sequester.

Though she doesn't anticipate services will have to be cut in the program, Shanks said the remaining $33,000 in reductions will come from Early Head Start.

The federal reduction in funding will lead to a 5 percent cut in the CASI Head Start budget, but Shanks said the amount is significant.

"We have children on the waiting list, and we try to serve as many children as we can, and we have qualified teachers that have their degrees," she said. "So you know, we really need to stay fully funded, not just for the teachers but for the children and the families, because that's why we're here, to give them services."

Head Start -- which launched in 1965 under President Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty -- garnered about $7.9 billion in federal funding last year.

Head Start grants across the country were reduced by 5 percent beginning on March 1, which was when the sequester started.

Overall, the sequestration budget is expected to cut $1 trillion from federal spending.

Barbara Anderson, the executive director of Haven House Services Inc., and a CASI board member, fears the sequester cuts will result in more homeless people needing shelter at Haven House because of reductions in public housing funding.

"When they feel pain, we feel pain because we're all interconnected," Anderson said.

Haven House doesn't receive federal grants, so its funding shouldn't wane due to the sequester. But Anderson said these budgetary cuts will flow through communities to the point where almost everyone will feel their sting.

Bob Lane, executive director of the New Albany Housing Authority, told the News and Tribune earlier this month the organization's budget is being sliced by 18 percent this year.

The New Albany Housing Authority could be forced to close 40 Section 8 housing units in the coming years if the funding isn't restored, he said.

"You can't operate with unfunded mandates," Lane said.

Source: (c)2013 The Evening News and The Tribune (Jeffersonville, Ind.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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