Budget cuts forced by federal sequestration will mean the end of Head Start and Early Head Start in three south-central Kansas counties.
The closures in Pratt, Stafford and Kingman counties will take place at the end of this month.
The Kansas Children’s Service League currently operates those programs in a total of 13 southern and western Kansas counties. KCSL Head Start Director Eric Pommier says he had to cut more than $200,000 from his budget, or a little more than 5 percent. He made the cuts based on a calculation of where the early education programs are needed least.
“If they didn’t have a need for our services, we would never have been serving them to begin with," says Pommier. "The way we identified lower need was by looking at the yearly census data, looking at the overall population under five, the poverty rate in each county, the unemployment rate, and the number of programs that are serving children in that age range as well.”
Eight Head Start staff members have been laid off, and 43 children will lose access to the program. Also because of the staff reductions, 20 Early Head Start openings had to be moved to other service areas.
Pommier says the affected families are grieving the loss of services, and are worried that their children may be behind their peers developmentally when they go to kindergarten.