School district considering changes to save big $ on Head Start

Posted: March 22, 2013

If the school district does nothing to find funding for its Head Start programs, about 500 children will be unable to secure a seat in the pre-K initiative, a district official told the School Reform Commission Thursday night.

"If we make no changes in our current program structure at the rate and we do not receive increased funding, we would have a significant gap," said Renee Queen Jackson, deputy chief of the Office of Early Childhood Education. "Five hundred children would lose Pre-K programming, if we do not move forward with some form of program restructuring."

Jackson spoke at length about the need to partner with community agencies who could run Head Start at a lower rate. A partner classroom would cost the district $8,300 while a Head Start class run inside the district would cost $11,700, she said.

The district has budgeted $68.5 million for Head Start programs in the current school year; 6,182 kids are served by the program.

Federal Title I funds make up 26 percent of the program's revenue and those funds, which also go toward other programs, are expected to fall by $70 to $80 million in fiscal year 2014, district Chief Financial Officer Matt Stanski estimated. He attributed the drop to the end of stimulus funding, federal budget cuts known as "the sequester" and a general reduction in Title I funds.

The program received $17.9 million in Title I funding this school year.

Christie Balka, director of child care and budget policy at Public Citizens for Children and Youth, expressed concerns about the potential for cuts to early education programs to the SRC.

"It seems every year I have testified about the need for the school district to provide more high-quality pre-k, not less," Balka said.

Pre-k capacity has declined 10 percent in five years, she said, warning that "if close attention is not paid, the district could lose an important educational asset."


" @ReginaMedina

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