TEMPLE – The Bell Country Head Start program is feeling the effects of across the board spending cuts brought on by the Sequester.
The National Head Start Association projects that 70,000 children nationwide will be cut from the early childhood development program that serves over a million lower income families.
The budget cuts are forcing Central Texas 4C, Bell Country's Head Start Program, to close down two campuses. Effective after this school year Southwest Head Start in Belton and Ridge Pointe Early Head Start in Killeen will close their doors.
Johnnie Layvan-Rayson, Nutrition Director of Central Texas 4C, says she's never seen cut this big in her 28 years with Head Start.
"There's been a lot of talk in the past years of cutting the budget and making changes, but no, nothing like this, this has been devastating to everyone." said Layvan-Rayson.
But through strategic planning, the local Head Start program has been able to avoid cutting staff and children already enrolled.
"So since we are finishing this school year, for instances in our Pre-K program those children who will be going on to Pre-K or kindergarten next year won't be returning," Janell Frazier, Executive Director of Central Texas 4C, said. "We just won't fill up to 30 of those slots next year. So nobody will be getting kicked out of the program, nobody."
Head Start is a federally funded program that assists lower income families in preparing infants and toddler for school. Frasier says one of their goals is not just assisting the children, but the parents as well.
Last year's federal review found Central Texas' Head Start program had "surpassed" expectations. Frazier says she just hopes fellow Central Texans can see the importance of the program.
"There's over 2,000 children that qualify for the service in Bell and Coryell County and they aren't getting nothing—and they're all at poverty level. The need here is great. We have poor people in our counties." said Frazier.
Frazier said she also wrote letters to Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz to explain to them the effects these cuts were having on Central Texas children. She says she hopes Congress can come to terms on a 2014 budget soon. In the meantime though, Frazier says Central Texas 4C has prepared for the cuts in the long run.