Funding cut to Florence head start program - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Funding cut to Florence head start program


A few hours before the government shutdown deadline passed Monday night, the Florence City School system learned it won't get funding for its Handy Head Start program.

The money stopped Monday, but the school district will keep the doors open for the next 10 days.

Superintendent Dr. Janet Womack said the district will do as much as they can to give parents some sort of leeway when it comes making other arraignments for students.

As of Oct. 11, more than 200 students will not go to school and 42 staff members will be out of a job.

"It's just heartbreaking," said Womack. "I think the story that most people don't see is how the actions of our federal government impact children."

The Handy Head Start program is designed to help children with disabilities and low income families prepare for kindergarten.  

"Because we're a 10-1 grantee with our budget starting Oct. 1, we were informed on Friday that they could not guarantee that our funding would be available past yesterday for our head start program," explained Womack.

Womack said the district did get approval for the program's annual $2.1-million budget. However, because Congress did not approve the appropriation act for the new fiscal year, the money is not there.  

"It's devastating news to us and heartbreaking news to us because we consider Handy the base and the anchor of what we build today in building the Florence City School student because where does it start? It begins at Handy before they're age four," said Womack.

Womack said the school board and community leaders are working on and researching other options to fund the program. Until then, the future of Handy Head Start is uncertain and lies in the hands of congress.

"You know enough is enough, you're affecting our children," said Womack. "Let's move forward for the benefit of these children."

A special called board meeting will take place Wednesday afternoon to address the lack of funding and termination of employees due to the closure.

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