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Head Start suffers funding cut

Funding for the federal Head Start early education program for children of low income families has been cut.
Now, the budget for the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services for the period ending Sept. 30, 2006, includes a one-percent cut of funds for the Head Start Program. And President George W. Bush has recommended level funding for the new federal fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, 2006.
Head Start is a national program designed to provide comprehensive services focusing on the educational, health and social needs of 3- to 5-year-old children from low-income families.
Lincoln Hills Development Corp., which operates the local Head Start program in Harrison, Crawford, Perry and Spencer counties, is already feeling the pinch of those cuts.
‘To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time in the 40-year history of the Head Start that the budget has been cut,’ said Larry Kleeman, executive director of LHDC. ‘Every president from Kennedy and Johnson through Clinton has supported and expanded the Head Start program.
‘Numerous studies have proved the effectiveness and success of this program, and I cannot understand how the Bush Administration and U.S. Congress pledge not to leave any child behind and at the same time cut this vital program for our young and vulnerable kids.’
According to state-by-state statistics reported by the U.S. Education Dept., more than a quarter of U.S. schools are failing under the terms of the No Child Left Behind law. At least 24,470 public schools, or 27 percent of the national total, didn’t meet the federal requirement for ‘annual yearly progress’ in 2004-05. The percentage of failing schools rose by one point from the previous school year. Under the 2002 law, schools that don’t make sufficient academic progress face penalties, including the eventual replacement of their administrators and teachers.
According to reports, thousands of schools across the nation are responding to the reading and math testing requirements laid out in No Child Left Behind by reducing class time spent on other subjects and, for some low-proficiency students, eliminating it. Pressure to test all students has led to a series of serious problems with the quality of the tests being administered and the kinds of learning goals measured. Reduction of funding has lowered standards in many places.
With the new school year beginning this fall, LHDC will be forced to make several reductions in ser-vices.
‘Two classrooms will have reduced hours, from full-day (six-hour sessions) to part-day (four-hour) sessions resulting in less ser-vice to several children.
‘The number of children enrolled will be reduced.
‘Two bus routes will be eliminated and numerous others reduced.
‘Two employees will be laid off and four others will have their hours of work reduced.
‘Eleven vehicles currently used for medical and dental transportation and as back-ups in case of breakdowns will be sold.
‘These decisions were very painful to make,’ Kleeman said. ‘LHDC management staff, the board of directors and the Head Start Policy Council deliberated over this matter for months attempting to maintain quality services for as many children and families as possible.’
LHDC currently serves 269 children in 10 different classrooms located in seven different state-licensed Head Start childcare centers. Centers are located in English, south of Marengo, Corydon, on the Perry County School campus, Tell City, Rockport and Dale.
‘As a nation, shouldn’t we be investing more in early childhood development programs such as Head Start and full-day kindergarten than building larger jails and prisons?’ Kleeman asked. ‘The evidence is overwhelming that these programs work and help children succeed, give them a boost to being a successful and productive member of society.’