Budget cuts threaten head start programs - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Budget cuts threaten head start programs

Head starts help some 550 children. Head starts help some 550 children.

The automatic federal budget cuts known as sequestration are now threatening head start programs for poor children.

Patricia Irvin, with Head Start Center, has worked in head start for 16 years and delights in the children.

"They really enjoy the social environment, and they enjoy the learning," she said.

"They are the neediest of the needy," said Community Action Partnership CEO, Leroy Gradford.

Gradford said he's has been warned by the feds to plan for sequestration cuts of five percent.  He said that means he might have to take 13 fewer children this fall.

Head starts help some 550 children, and Gradford said it gets results.  

"If you walk in and look at them in September, you wonder why we even want to get into this business. You walk out there now and look at some of them, and you'll see a different child," he said.

Irvin said the prospect of not being able to take some kids worries her. She worries about what is going to happen to those kids as they go on into kindergarten and on into school without that Head Start head start.

"They really need a start, a head start, in order to go to the next level," said Irvin.

"There's going to be students that go into the kindergarten classroom who aren't ready or prepared for school at all," said Sandra Burton with Head Start Center.

For now, head start plans to eliminate jobs already vacant and watch for the next round of budget talks in Washington.

"Watching, waiting and praying," said Burton.

Gradford said he hopes some families can avoid the impact of the cutbacks in head start by turning instead to Huntsville Schools' Pre-K program.

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