About 57,000 fewer children have access to slots in the federally-funded Head Start program due to the across-the-board federal budget cuts known as sequestration, according to numbers released today from the Office of Head Start. About 51,000 of those positions were allocated to Head Start, which serves 4-year-olds, and 6,000 were allocated to Early Head Start, which provides services to infants, toddlers, and pregnant women.
The chart below provides a breakdown for the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico and come directly from Head Start. To give a rough idea of how these numbers compare to overall enrollment in a state, I've added a third column that reflects the number of Head Start slots that were funded for those jurisdictions in fiscal 2012, the latest figures that are available. (Source here.) The number of slots funded, however, does not correspond directly to the number of children served, because children might cycle in and out of a program. Also, additional children are served in Head Start programs aimed at Indian and Alaska Native populations and the children of migrant workers, which cross state boundaries and are not included here.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is the parent agency of Head Start, drew complaints from some quarters that it was overestimating the effects that the sequestration cuts—which pared about $400 million from Head Start's budget of close to $8 billion—would have on the agency. That estimate was that up to 70,000 slots could be eliminated, based on a mathematical calculation linked to the average cost per child.
The figures released today come from reports from individual grantees. Grantees had several ways that they could absorb the cuts, including ending their school year or school day early, or cutting transportation services. The Office of Head Start said that based on the information from grantees, there were about 1.3 million fewer days of service nationwide and at least 18,000 staff members affected through pay cuts or job loss.
Photo: Assistant teacher Elizabeth Rollins watches children play at the Claxton- West Head Start Center, in Knoxville, Tenn. She has worked at the center for 10 years. Citing automatic budget cuts, the Knoxville- Knox County Head Start agency chose to end its service year two weeks early. (Shawn Poynter for Education Week)