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Kentucky Funding Crunch: Early Head Start facing deep cuts

Article from The Times Leader


Times Leader Staff Report staff@timesleader.net


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By Stacey Menser staceym@timesleader.net

LeAnne Pool helps provide care for Early Head Start students Maliyah Brown (left) and Hayden Hubbard while their moms are in class at Caldwell County High. The program was started this school year but is at risk of losing its federal funding in September.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

One federal program that local educators believe has had a positive impact on Caldwell County High students is at risk of losing funding. But the community can help save it by contacting lawmakers and asking for help.

The Early Head Start program, which serves teen mothers and their children, began at CCHS this school year with federal stimulus funds allocated to Head Start and Early Head Start programs across the nation.

The program at CCHS is operated with these funds through Audubon Area Community Services and provides in-school childcare for up to eight infants and toddlers whose mothers are students at the school.

The school provides a room for the program, but everything else is funded through federal grant monies, including three staff members.

“We offer so much more than just day care,” said LeeAnn McGregor, who is the head teacher of the Early Head Start program at CCHS.

“We work with the children (ages 6 weeks through 3 years) on fine motor skills as well as emotional, social and cognitive skills. By being here in the program, the children have a routine and consistency. They also have the benefit of being around other kids.”

Not only are the children of the teen mothers benefitting from the program, but also the mothers and their family members as well.

“We work with the families on setting goals, both inside and outside the classroom,” said McGregor. “We also make sure these young mothers have the skills they need to be successful not only in their school work but also as caregivers to their children.”

McGregor said the student mothers spend one class period a day with their children.

“If mom does not come to school, the baby may not come to the program,” McGregor said.

But the goal is to keep these mothers in school.

“One way we help is by taking the children for their immunizations and well child checkups. That way the mothers don’t have to miss out on classroom time,” said McGregor.

The educational opportunities provided to the local teen mothers actually begin in the prenatal stages.

“I make weekly home visits to make sure the expectant mothers are doing everything they are supposed to be doing,” said McGregor. “We also partner with local agencies, such as the HANDS program through the health department, to provide these mothers and their families with as many resources as we can.”

But the resources that are providing for the program will run out in September.

“That is why we want the community to come out and see just how important this program is,” said McGregor.

An open house is planned at the Early Head Start room at Caldwell County High School Thursday, March 31, from 5-7 p.m.

“We invite the entire community to come out, see the faces of the people being served and hopefully contact lawmakers and ask them to keep this program,” said McGregor.

Community members can easily show their support for the program by logging on to http://www.supportheadstart.org.

The website will allow community members to send emails directly to Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, Rep. Ed Whitfield and President Barak Obama, asking to allocate funds to keep the local program.

“This is a program our students need,” said Renee Williams, Director of Special Education and Prechool/Head Start for the Caldwell School District.

Williams oversees the Early Head Start program for the district, and she feels the need will continue to be there for local students.

While there are no figures on exactly how many CCHS students are currently pregnant, one educator at the school guessed that 16 students are either currently a mother or expecting a child.

“This is our first year to actually have the program in the school. The grant was for two years, but it took the first year to get it up and running,” Williams said. “I think it has been well received, better than we had expected. It has not been intrusive or disruptive to the students at the high school.

“We would like the community to come to the open house and see all the benefits of this program.”

Educators at the high school see the benefits each and every day walking the halls of the school.

“I think it is encouraging to some of our teen mothers. It is allowing them the opportunity to stay in school when they may not otherwise be able to,” said CCHS Guidance Counselor Teresa Scott.

Denise Pool of the district’s COPE Family Center works closely with high school students day in and day out.

“It’s not a problem we want to have, but we do have it,” said Pool speaking of the rate of teen pregnancy.

“What I tell these girls is to finish their high school education. That is the most important thing they can do to provide for themselves and their babies.

“They are raising our next generation. We want them to set a good example for their children by finishing high school, and this program (Early Head Start) allows them to do that.”

Pool said she has heard the personal stories of some of the young mothers who are participating in the program this school year.

“If this program wasn’t here, some of them would have to quit school and stay home,” said Pool. “This program is keeping them in school, and that’s why we need to keep it.”

Community members are invited to attend the Thursday open house and meet the staff of the Early Head Start program, which includes Holly Van Hooser and LeAnne Pool in addition to LeeAnn McGregor.

The community can learn other ways to offer support to the program by contacting McGregor at the high school, 365-8010. In-kinds donations and volunteer opportunities are available.
Article from The Times Leader, Princeton and Caldwell, KY: LINK to Article

Washington DC: Educare early childhood center breaks ground in Ward 7

Washington Post Artilce, Posted at 06:15 PM ET, 03/16/2011 

By Bill Turque

Mayor Vincent C. Gray may have gotten a little swept up in the moment at Tuesday’s groundbreaking for the Educare early childhood center in Parkside-Kenilworth. In hammering the point that it’s never too early for early childhood initiatives, the mayor said: “Frankly, if I were in a position to have a fetus in the program, I’d do it.” He added: “We don’t know what’s going on in the intrauterine experience” that might enable an unborn child to benefit.

The intrauterine experience not withstanding, Tuesday was a big day in Ward 7 as the Educare facility finally launched. The $12 million project, spearheaded by the Buffett Early Childhood Fund (headed by Susie Buffett, daughter of the billionaire investor) was due to break ground as early as last summer but ran into a thicket of local issues involving labor, land ownership and governance. The plan now is to open in early 2012 and serve 171 at-risk infants, toddlers, preschoolers and their families.

Buffett, the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation are among the private funders underwriting construction of the building, adjacent to Neval Thomas Elementary School. It will be operated by a local partnership that includes the United Planning Organization (the local Head Start grantee) and funded with a combination of D.C., federal and private dollars. It will be one of 12 Educare schools operating across the country in an effort to raise the quality of birth-to-5 services for low-income families.

Officials envision Educare as a critical cog in the D.C. Promise Neighborhood Initiative, similar to New York’s Harlem Children’s Zone. Educare, Thomas Elementary and the Parkside campus of Cesar Chavez Public Policy Charter School (grades 6 through 12) would help provide the basis for a web of continuous social and educational services.

A consortium of community groups led by Chavez won a $500,000 grant last fall to continue the planning effort. Other major players include America’s Promise Alliance, chaired by Alma Powell, wife of former secretary of state Colin Powell, and City Interests, headed by developer Alan Novak.

By Bill Turque  |  06:15 PM ET, 03/16/2011

LINK to Article

Cutting federal workforce also means cutting taxpayer services

By Joe Davidson, Tuesday, January 25

If you thought the two-year pay freeze President Obama and Congress imposed on federal employees would mollify Republican calls for harsher worker sacrifices, you would be wrong.

The Republican Study Committee, a group that makes up almost 70 percent of the Republicans in the House, wants more.

Cutting spending to 2008 levels, as House Republicans proposed last year, would be just the start for the committee members.

Under the committee’s Spending Reduction Act of 2011, “at the beginning of the next fiscal year on October 1, 2011, [non-defense] spending is further reduced to 2006 levels and frozen there for the next decade,” the committee said last week. “To help achieve these savings, the bill shrinks the size and cost of the civilian federal workforce and specifically targets over 100 budget items and spending reforms.”

But what the committee doesn’t readily address is what their cuts would mean for the many services Uncle Sam provides his customers.

For example, would waits for Social Security, veterans and discrimination claims grow? Would there be fewer workplace inspections? Would it take longer to approve drugs?

Committee Republicans would shrink the cost of the federal workforce through a five-year pay freeze and reduce the workforce by 15 percent through attrition. That would be reached by hiring one worker for every two who left government.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) stood with his House colleagues in a news release issued by the committee, against what he called “the wave of wasteful Washington spending. The Spending Reduction Act begins the difficult task of shrinking the federal bureaucracy that threatens our future prosperity.”

The federal bureaucracy and those who staff it always are an easy target. But the release fails to mention anything about the impact the proposed cuts would have on service. If cutting federal spending, the federal payroll and staffing levels are necessary, then those who push those policies also should be willing to say what services they are willing to cut to save money.

While the committee’s news release and fact sheet ignored the impact of its proposal on customers, others did not.

Bennie G. Thompson, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, said many of the projects to enhance domestic security – along the border, at airports and in cyberspace – were paid for through the discretionary budget.

Going back to 2006 levels would place homeland security “potentially at risk if this goes through,” Thompson said. An overview of the legislation issued by the committee makes no mention of excluding homeland security and veterans’ spending from the proposed discretionary limits.

With defense programs excluded, the hit on the remaining parts of the budget would be huge.

“If imposed across the board, such a cut would mean 42 percent less for health care for veterans; 42 percent less for K-12 education; 42 percent less for protecting the environment; 42 percent less for the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and border security; 42 percent less for the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 42 percent less for food safety and inspection; and so on,” according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, an organization that studies federal budget issues from a center-left perspective.

But let’s say the center overstates the problem. According to the Senate’s Democratic leadership, even a 30 percent cut in non-security programs would have a serious impact:

l About 8 million students would have their Pell grants cut.

l Head Start would be forced to drop about 389,000 children and families.

l K-through-12 classrooms across America would lose $11.25 billion

l About 3,000 food-safety inspector positions would be eliminated

l Approximately 4,000 positions for FBI agents, 800 ATF agents, 1,500 DEA agents, and 900 U.S. marshals would be lost, as would 5,700 correctional officers in federal prisons.

l Guaranteed loans for small businesses would fall by about $4 billion in 2011.

Asked about service cuts, a spokesman for the committee said the Office of Management Budget would have flexibility to reassign worker slots between agencies if necessary. “People in the private sector often have to tighten their belts, increase productivity and provide the same services at lower costs,” he said. “We reject the notion that the federal government cannot do the same.”

Providing the same service at lower costs, however, is a notion that often ignores reality. Consider the difference in service between a Home Depot and a neighborhood hardware store. One way big-box stores keep costs low is by hiring comparatively fewer people. Along with lower costs come lower levels of service.

Sam can learn from recent experience. Many agencies were understaffed when President Obama took office and their customers suffered steep backlogs in service.

Going back to 2006 levels “would have significant impacts on staffing and slash productivity at a time when we are receiving record numbers of charges,” said Christine Saah Nazer, a spokeswoman for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“We would see our pending inventory grow significantly and a marked decrease in our ability to provide training and technical assistance to employers. This would ultimately result in lengthy delays, keeping those who file complaints of discrimination, as well as businesses, in a costly state of limbo.”

The cost of government can be counted in different ways. Budget figures are one way, the cost to customers by cutting service is another. When politicians talk about the former, don’t let them get away with ignoring the latter.

Washington Post, LINK to Article