Head Start programs across the U.S. received some devastating news earlier this month—federal budget cuts under sequestration. But what does this mean specifically for Macon County? According to Macon County Head Start Manager Dana Kirks, these budget cuts reduced slots available to children from 70 to 52 as well as three staff members.
"It is just devastating," said Kirks. "Because of the cuts we lost one full-day classroom and one home-based classroom, therefore, those teacher's jobs were eliminated. We are going to miss those individuals terribly because they were really high class and top-notch people."
The Macon County Head Start is operated by Douglass Community Services, which serves eight counties in Northeast Missouri—Macon, Marion, Monroe, Pike, Ralls, Randolph and Shelby Counties—all of which were affected.
"We regret how these reductions will impact our communities," said Executive Director at Douglass Dave Dexheimer. "Not only will this add to unemployment through the loss of staff, it may mean parents will also have to give up work because they can not afford child care."
The total cuts made to Head Start by sequestration amounts to almost $250,000.
"We operate on a very efficient budget to begin with and all of our resources go toward serving these families and children that are involved in Head Start," said Kirks. "So it is not cutting any excess, but right into the family services that we can supply because we run very efficiently."
Head Start works with children from ages birth to age five on kindergarten readiness, their health, dental, nutrition and socialization. But Head Start doesn't just help the children, but their families as well.
"We work really close with the parents to help them understand what is developmentally appropriate for their children to give them support, ideas and resources so they can be the best parents they can be," said Kirks. "And all of our parents want that."
Although there are limited slots for children, Kirks doesn't want this to discourage parents.
"Things change all the time as far as availability goes," said Kirks. "We have people move and spots are vacated so we go straight to the wait list."
Students will be selected within the next couple of weeks and are selected based off of a point system and personal circumstances.
"It is really important that parents who are wanting to take advantage and are qualified to take advantage of our program keep in close touch with me and work with us to try and make sure everything is done for entry in August," said Kirks. "Parents should also write to Congress and Senators and express their frustration."