Lakeshore News Tonight

Head Start Prepares Children Despite Cuts

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October 29, 2013 — Despite the challenges with federal government funding, head start education is ongoing for children in Northwest Indiana.

While it is not mandatory in the state of Indiana, those in the Pre-Kindergarten industry believe little ones, ages five and younger, need educational services.

That’s why Geminus Corporation leaders are cutting through the red tape to provide the best services to children and families despite recent uncertainties in Washington, D.C.

Geminus Head Start Vice President Karen Carradine said the recent partial government shutdown was a close call, “We were a lucky state.  There were other states that actually had grantees that were at the beginning of their fiscal year and were not able to open their doors.  Luckily here in Indiana, we did not have any grantees in that status.”

Head Start might have been lucky, but the school was not exempt from cuts that happened earlier this year.

“When sequestration hit, the final percentage was 5.27% of our budget.  For us that equated to a little over $624,000, which is huge for any head start,” Carradine said.

Leveling the knowledge playing field while children are younger is what Carradine and her staff feels help their future.  Though there were cuts of roughly half-a-million dollars, Head Start and Early Head Start are still providing services to more than 1600 children.  Carradine said changes include switching from a full, six hour instructional day to a half day.  In addition, classroom aides are now bus monitors and they provide instruction there.

“One of the commitments we made is to have an uninterrupted educational day.  We recognize that a half day is three-and-a-half hours in length and shorter than our full-day program.  We wanted to ensure that three-and-a-half hours was chalked full of educational experiences and opportunities for direct instruction as well,” Carradine said.

Family Services Manager Litisha Smith said numbers from community needs assessments show there is a need to take on a more non-traditional approach of forging partnerships with area entities that offer services to people with learning challenges.

“If we could start earlier on with supporting children and families in their very specific and unique needs and take a more inclusive approach to supporting them, later on down the line we may definitely see where there is a decreased need for services around disabilities and mental health,” said Smith.

Carradine said if Head Start had proper funding to educate all children through age five, the process would eradicate the achievement gap, “We should not judge which children should have access to good, high quality early childhood education.  It should be a conclusion based on the research that we know about.”

Carradine said some teachers took part in an iPad pilot program this year in hopes of tapping into Head Start’s future vision.

By Renetta DuBose

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