Future for Head Start not so bright as feds GET STINGY

SCP schools scrambling for cash to keep the program alive

April 18, 2007 at 1:28 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

St. Charles Parish schools are constantly striving to provide the best possible education for all students - and that includes those aged two months to four years in the Early Head Start and Head Start programs.

But in months to come, the school board and administrators may be”juggling the finances” as they seek funding to keep thee programs afloat.

With costs rising and federal contributions going forward looking “iffy” at best, director of curriculum Rachel Allemand fears cutbacks - or worse.

“Unfortunately, federal funding appears to be stable and there may even be some cuts over the next few years,” she said.

“Right now it’s a year by year situation of whether we have the money locally and can continue to pay for the programs.”

The school board recently approved funding for the Early Head Start program to keep it going through the 2007-08 school year. Cost to the parish: $496,000.

The remaining $1.6 million needed to fund the program - which targets children from 2 months to 3 years old - comes from the federal government.

When Early Head Start began in St. Charles five years ago, in 2002, the entire cost was paid by the feds.

Now the schools are trying to figure out how to keep the program alive with less or no federal contribution.

“In the long run it’s beneficial for the children,” Allemand told the Herald Guide of keeping Head Start. “Studies have shown for every $1 spent, $3 are saved by not having to pay later to fund remedial courses.”

The staff for Head Start consists of family service professionals, teachers and so-called “parent-center specialists” whose purpose is to provide support and learning experiences for children, Allemand said.

The program also helps families promote wholesome physical, intellectual and social development.

To be eligible for Head Start children must be “at-risk” - whicih means they live below the poverty level or face challenges.

According to Allemand, the district pays for 22 percent of the Head Start program that includes care for 197 at-risk students who qualify, but the amount the school system must contribute is likely to increase if federal funding remains static as it has over the past several years.

Without increased federal money, the funding will have to come from the school system’s general fund.

View other articles written Caleb Frey

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