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Regional Report: Budget Cuts Close Head Start Program

Harris County Public Library / Flickr

For this week’s Regional Report, we turn to Washington County in New York where the sequestration budget cuts impacted a Head Start program.

The education program suffered a 5.2 percent budget cut this April. Those effects are being felt now, with one center just over the Vermont border in Cambridge, New York closing its doors. Head Start also eliminated a six-week summer program.

Elizabeth Conkey of the Bennington Banner reports that the closure comes after a $200,000 cut to the budget.

"Families are left scrambling to find other plans."

“Families are left scrambling to find other plans, other childcare options for the summer as most of them work,” says Conkey.

Many parents were relying on Head Start as their sole child care provider. Conkey says the program provides the benefit of pre-school to children whose families may not be able to afford to pay out-of-pocket:

“It helps these children get used to the fact that they will be in a school environment, learning,” says Conkey. “It also builds an element of trust with an adult figure other than their parents.”

Families still have some choices. Head Start held information sessions for parents to offer suggestions on alternate programs. However, many of those alternatives cost money: some up to $175 per week.  Conkey said financial aid or scholarships may be available in some situations.

Conkey says that the government has warned Washington County that more cuts could impact this program in the future.

A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
Annie Russell was VPR's Deputy News Director. She came to VPR from NPR's Weekends on All Things Considered and WNYC's On The Media. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School.
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