Head Start, the home-based preschool program for low-income Vineyard families, will end programming one month earlier and begin one month later this year to accommodate federal budget cuts due to sequestration, the program’s director announced this week.
Debbie Milne, early childhood program director at Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, which operates the Head Start program on the Island, said the program’s budget is being cut by $19,000.
“We made the best of a bad situation,” Ms. Milne said on Thursday.
The home visitation program will now end in May and begin in October. The decision was made by a policy council comprised of staff and parents, Ms. Milne said, and was the best option to continue providing services to families and not eliminate staff positions.
“Even though they’re all devastated that we have this huge cut, they’re feeling like we will still keep the integrity of the program intact and not lose any families or staff,” she said. “It’s huge, and the staff will bear the brunt of the cut.”
Parents have begun talking about “helping each other out” during June and September by organizing playgroups together at the Family Center, another program run through community services, Ms. Milne said “so the kids aren’t left without any socialization.” Community Services is working with the National Head Start Association to help restore some, if not all, of the money, she added. Earlier this month, President Barack Obama signed into effect the $1.2 trillion across the board budget cuts that will affect public safety, community services, education and small businesses nationwide. The White House released a state-by-state analysis early last week, with Massachusetts expected to lose $26 million in education grants, $4 million in environmental funding for clean water and air quality, $43 million in payroll cuts for civilian defense workers, and $535,000 in funds for meals for seniors.
Included are cuts to tribal services. The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) is expected to feel a “significant impact” from the cuts, chairman of the tribe Cheryl Andrews-Maltais said in an email to the Gazette. The tribe, like most federally-recognized tribes, is “totally reliant” on federal funding for many tribal programs.
“These cuts will definitely hit our annual base funding hard, because we are already grossly underfunded,” she wrote. “But over the last few years, we have restructured our programs and services and the ways we deliver them in preparation for this inevitability.”
She continued: “While we will be negatively impacted for the extra programs and projects, the fundamental programs of health, children, family and elder serves as well as our educational programs, natural resources and environmental programs should be lean, but okay.”
“While it should not impact projects already underway, new projects may be much more difficult to get funded,” she concluded.
Massachusetts is expected also to lose some $13.9 million in funding for primary and secondary education, and an additional $13.4 million for education for children with disabilities.
Martha’s Vineyard schools superintendent Dr. James H. Weiss said grant reductions from the state will likely go into effect beginning July 1. Cuts will likely be applied to a host of areas, including Title 1 funding, writing labs, school improvement grants and special education programs including Project Headway. Title 1 funding provides remedial support for low-income students who struggle academically and Project Headway serves preschool students with disabilities.
The total funding reduction at this time is unknown, Mr. Weiss added.
Mr. Weiss said the administration does not have a plan to replace money but is looking into other grant sources. He said the Vineyard schools are “not competitive for some of these private grants because we don’t have a high enough poverty level.”