Head Start Programs, Forced to Close Early, Still Have Funds For Flights

PHOTO: A school bus takes children home following class at the federally-funded Head Start school in this September 20, 2012 file photo in Woodbourne, New York.
Share
Copy

By cutting funds for Head Start, sequestration has sent low-income children in some states home 10 days early. But the federal government's inability to agree on a budget didn't prevent 2,800 Head Start leaders from attending a three-day conference in National Harbor, Md., this week.

Chalk it up to the peculiarities of the sequester. In this case, it's O.K. to cut classes for kids, but not O.K. to reallocate Training and Technical Assistance funds.

National Harbor is along the Potomac River, just over the border from Washington, D.C.; it offers hotels, restaurants, shopping and a marina. The Office of Head Start held its second annual "National Birth to Five Leadership Institute" conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. Rooms went for $224 per room per night, a rate set by the U.S General Services Administration; according to Kenneth Wolfe, deputy director of Administration for Children & Families' office of public affairs, the event's total approved cost was $752,059, not including the cost of the stay, meals and air-fare for the grantees.

The conference included seminars and lectures focused on teaching parents, educators and administrators to use data to improve programs. Head Start's mission is to help low-income children from birth to age five develop socially and cognitively before they enter the formal education system.

Community Action Partnership of Kern (CAPK) in Bakersfield, Calif., sent four team members to the training.

CAPK had to reduce the number of days they offer their program this year from 168 to 158, two days below the national standard minimum. Next year they plan to operate 160 days.

READ MORE: 57 Terrible Consequences of the Sequester

Mark Corum, outreach and resource development manager for CAPK, said any day their children aren't attending Head Start is a detriment to both the children's learning and the parents.

"Ideally we're trying to help people with a safety net. You know, they've fallen through the cracks," Corum told ABC News on Thursday. "It's the total family that we bring and embrace and try to make them better."

He's seen "firsthand" how the program has helped parents and children with achieve success in life.

To celebrate Head Start and protest the cuts, Massachusetts organizers are planning a parade on Boston Common for May 31.

They "[h]ope to … perhaps convince some folks in Washington that our children are as important as air traffic controllers and meat inspectors and that they should seriously consider rescinding this foolish sequester that is causing havoc with the lives of our most underprivileged families," John Drew, president and CEO of Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD), told ABC News in an email Thursday.

READ MORE: Pre-School for All: President Obama's Pipe Dream or Possibility?

The Boston-area Head Start programs considered cutting as many as 250 slots for children at the onset of the sequester cuts. They are continuing to figure out "how many classes, children, teachers and parents will be left behind," when cuts go into effect for their programs in September, Drew said. Of their 650-person staff, ABCD sent two to the conference.

So how can programs facing a 5.2 percent decrease in their budgets afford to send staff to the national conference?

Groups are drawing from a section of their budget set aside for "Training and Technical Assistance." Congress allocates funds for this separately from Head Start's operating costs, and the Office of Head Start absorbed all of the TTA sequester cuts, so that grantee's TTA budgets would remain intact.

"The Office of Head Start is committed to working with programs to ensure the provision of high-quality services continue during this challenging time of sequestration," Kenneth Wolfe, deputy director of Administration for Children & Families' office of public affairs, told ABC News in an email.

TTA money cannot be reallocated to cover operating costs without direction from Congress.

So while Vanessa Gibbons, director of Jackson County Civic Action Committee in Moss Point, Miss., would rather use the money to continue giving her young students a safe place to go before their older siblings' schools let out for the summer, she instead has had to cut her program 10 days short this year.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: Debra Messing, left, attending the premiere of Smash in New York City on Jan. 26, 2012 and right, attending the Broadway opening of Outside Mullingar on Jan. 23, 2014 in New York.
Jim Spellman/Getty Images | Bruce Glikas/Getty Images
Baby Lemur Relaxes on Mom
Jens Meyer/AP Photo
PHOTO: Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols watches the ball after connecting for his 500th career home run,April 22, 2014.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo
PHOTO: Online services such as AllPaws.com help match people with the perfect pet.
Courtesy Darrell Lerner/AllPaws.com