In guidance issued earlier this month, the chief of the federal Head Start program benefitting preschool-age students from low-income families said 5-percent of local agency budgets will be cut for the remainder of the year, which will affect some 70,000 students nationwide.
In a March 1 memo, Yvette Sanchez-Fuentes, director of the Office of Head Start (OHS) in Washington, D.C., said grants to all Head Start, Early Head Start, American Indian and Alaska Native Head Start, and Migrant and Seasonal Head Start are affected. She also said all state, regional and national activities, including training and technical assistance, research, and monitoring, will also be reduced by at least 5 percent. She added that proportional reductions across all these activities are required by Section 640 of the Head Start Act.
She advised that local agencies begin planning how they will alter their programs to operate at the reduced levels.
"The first priority for all programs is to maintain a high quality of service (which includes transportation) provided to children and families and to ensure their health and safety," she said. "It is critical to minimize disruptions to currently enrolled children for this program year."
In addition to the enrollment reductions, Sanchez-Fuentes said her office also expects workforce reductions, "particularly in the upcoming program year."
"OHS is committed to working with programs to ensure the provision of high-quality services continue during this challenging time," she said. "We understand the impact on the current program year will vary depending on when grantees receive their annual funding. We know that programs well into their program year will have to make decisions quickly to operate at this reduced funding level, possibly including early program closures. We will exercise as much flexibility and with as much assistance as possible to ensure the above principles can be adhered to."
She added that grantees should work closely with their regional offices to develop strategies and plans to move forward.
OHS on March 1 also held an all-grantee phone call to provide further guidance and details. During the call, one grantee told STN that those on the line were advised that the reductions will not force recompetition for funds based on quality of service reductions that occur as a result of the budget cuts. And OHS spokesman confirmed that grantees will not be penalized with the threat of recompetition, even if early closure means the agencies are unable to provide as many days of service as required in the Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS). But, he added, other deficiencies and conditions per Part 1307 of HSPPS still apply.