Head Start facing challenges

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Cassville Head Start will be facing some restructuring due to budget cuts and reorganization to address current and future challenges to the program.

According to Kimberly Shinn-Brown, Ozark Area Community Action Corporation (OACAC) Head Start and Early Head Start director, the changes will impact nine of the 10-county service area in southwest Missouri.

The reorganization is an effort to respond to shrinking federal, state and local resources, which fund the local programs.

Through the reorganization, the OACAC board hopes to address the local impact of sequester under the Budget Control Act of 2011, and anticipates a 5 percent reduction, or just under $600,000 of its $11.7 million federal budget.

"The final amount has not been determined," Shinn-Brown said, "but the Office of Head Start notified all grantees to expect approximately a 5 percent reduction for the remainder of the fiscal year."

Operational changes impacting Cassville include closing of Head Start #2, located at 97 Smithson Dr. in Cassville, and moving Cassville Head Start #1, located at 95 Smithson Dr. in Cassville, into the #2 facility. The early head start program will also be closed.

In Monett, the plan is to convert the Monett #2 facility into an extended day program without bus service.

The changes will take effect Sept. 1.

Cuts in southwest Missouri include: reducing enrollment at three Early Head Start programs; closing five Head Start programs; and changing service delivery methods at eight other Head Start facilities across the 10-county service area for the 2013-14 year.

The effort will result in the loss of approximately 185 slots for children enrolled in Head Start and 14 slots for Early Head Start children.

"Federal funding has not kept pace with the increasing cost of doing business," Shinn-Brown said. "We are well beyond the point of belt-tightening. We've been asked to do more with increasingly fewer resources. We were able to do that for a short period of time, but it's not sustainable long-term."

According to Shinn-Brown, this is the first of three automatic, across-the-board cuts intended to address the growth of the national debt.

"The sequester is a 10-year plan, so we are carefully considering decisions now to position the program to weather the next 10 years," Shinn-Brown said.

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