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NNY Head Start programs to lose over $300,000

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Head Start programs throughout Northern New York stand to lose more than $300,000 under federal sequestration.

While directions from the regional Head Start office in New York City or the national office Washington, D.C., have yet to trickle down to Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties, local agencies know their programs will be cut 5 percent.

“We’re starting to brainstorm,” said Norma S. Cary, executive director of the St. Lawrence County Community Development Program. “We certainly don’t want to lose children served. We put some things in the budget like a part-time nurse, but we won’t hire that individual now.”

The Community Development Program runs the St. Lawrence County Head Start program, which serves 351 children each year. That program would lose about $142,000, since it is funded at just over $2.8 million. The Jefferson County program, which is overseen by the Community Action Planning Council of Jefferson County, may lose about $110,000, as it is funded annually at $2.2 million.

Lewis County Head Start, Lowville, will lose at least $50,000, since it is funded annually at just over $1 million. Several attempts to reach Sandra Roberts, Lewis County Head Start executive director, were unsuccessful.

Marie E. Ambrose, Head Start/prekindergarten director of the Community Action Planning Council, said that since the agency already is into the fifth month of its 2013 fiscal year, it would have to cut $110,000 from its budget by October.

“I’ve been with the agency for 27 years and I don’t remember a cut like this,” she said. “It’s our hope we will not have to reduce enrollment or staffing, but that’ll be very difficult to do.”

One option being considered is ending the current Head Start school year one week early, and starting the 2013-14 year a week later. Nothing will be decided until after information is presented, and then reviewed by CAPC’s policy council.

Mrs. Ambrose said she hopes Congress is able to come up with a deal to prevent program devastation because “low-income children are the most vulnerable in the nation.”

Head Start is a federal program that promotes school readiness of children from birth to age 5, from low-income families. A majority of programming in the north country is for 3- and 4-year-old children. A 5 percent cut nationwide means 70,000 children will lose access to Head Start, according to the national program’s website.

Just four years ago, according to the national office, more than 64,000 slots for Early Head Start and Head Start programs were added through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

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