By Chad Frey
The national Head Start web site is not being updated — a casualty of a federal government shutdown which started Oct. 1. And some local programs were shut down until a private donor stepped forward to fund them.
According to a news release from the National Head Start Association more than 7,000 at-risk children will be able to return to their Head Start classrooms after philanthropists Laura and John Arnold extended up to $10 million in emergency funding support to the National Head Start Association. The support will provide assistance to Head Start and Early Head Start programs that were forced to close or are facing closure this month as a result of the government shutdown. Money for Head Start in Fiscal Year 2014 has not been appropriated yet due to the stalemate in Washington leaving some programs with no access to federal funds.
At the end of the first week of the government shutdown, seven Head Start programs in six states — Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi — were closed, leaving 7,195 children without access to Head Start. More than 11,000 additional children risk losing access to comprehensive Head Start services if the shutdown continues through October. If the government does not reopen by Nov. 1, additional Head Start programs serving more than 86,000 children in 41 states and one U.S. Territory stand to lose access to Head Start funding.
The local program in Newton, however, is currently in no danger of shutting down.
"We have not had any bad news. We have not had any problems drawing funds at this point — that's not to say that won't change," said Jason Chalashtari, early childhood administrator for Newton USD 373.
Head Start is a federally funded Center Based Preschool Program that provides comprehensive services including education, health, nutrition, social services, and parent involvement, to income eligible children ages 0-5 and their families. It is one of three programs — including a special education cooperative and pre-kindergarten program — housed at Cooper Early Education Center in Newton.
Those other two programs — special education and pre-K — are funded with state funds, rather than federal.
Chalashtari said there is no danger to those programs.
He said the reason some Head Start programs have had to close has to do with calendars — specifically the fiscal years of some programs. If their fiscal year started after the Oct. 1 shutdown, they may not be able to get the money appropriated for the program. Newton's fiscal year started in July.
"Our funds were already appropriated," Chalashtari said. "They are already in an account."
For the foreseeable future the Head Start program headquartered in Newton will remain open — but some federal workers within Head Start are furloughed.
Page 2 of 2 - "We have not heard anything at the program levels — meaning kids," Chalashtari said. "The only information we have received is there are federal Head Start staff furloughed — some in Kansas City."