Furlough days. Shutting down classrooms. Eliminating staff.
These are some of the consequences of the loss of $235,000 in federal funding to local Head Start and early Head Start programs because of automatic federal budget cuts.
“I think it’s been very unexpected because Head Start has not had a significant cut in many years,” said Roger Pavey, executive director of Community Action of Eastern Iowa. “Everyone is obviously on edge with the cuts, same thing with the parents who now must scramble to find quality child care.”
Community Action serves children from infants to pre-kindergarten in Scott, Clinton, Cedar and Muscatine counties and serves more than 600 students.
The cuts will impact 420 students. The remaining students are those who are in programs that partner with school districts in Davenport, Bettendorf and West Liberty and won’t be impacted, Pavey said.
Pavey talked about the cuts with reporters during a conference call hosted by Iowa’s American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees union.
He said it’s important to note that not every Head Start program in the state begins their fiscal year at the same time, so the financial impact of the federal budget cuts is different for everyone.
His agency’s fiscal year began Nov. 1, so the cuts were retroactive for the past five months.
Having to scramble to find where those cuts would come from, the agency will have to close one Head Start classroom and one early Head Start classroom in Scott County in the fall, resulting in the loss of 28 slots for students and five staff positions, Pavey said.
Pavey said the agency won’t make the decision on which classrooms to close until June.
The agency also will institute 12 furlough days, or days when the centers will be closed.
Half of the classrooms that normally would close for the school year May 20 will now close about two weeks earlier. The rest of the classrooms will close for about two weeks in late July or early August, Pavey said.
“It’s a big reduction for us and a very short time frame to find that reduction,” Pavey said.
Pavey said because of how quickly the cuts need to be made, the agency hasn’t yet identified an alternative funding source to make up for the money.