Shutdown Still Impacting Head-Start Centers

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By Julie Montanaro
December 3, 2013

There is a teacher shortage at Head Start centers in our area.

Those who work with children there say the recent government shutdown was the last straw.

Children at Head Start centers in Leon, Jefferson and Franklin counties were sent home October first when lawmakers could not agree on a budget and the flow of federal funding stopped. A private donor allowed them to open their doors five days later.

Crisis averted? Teachers here aren't convinced. It prompted four teachers to quit.

"They decided to take other routes, so they were scared and they didn't know so they didn't want to take any chances because they have their families to support," said center director Latreas Palmer.

Four teachers may not sound like a lot, but center directors say it was the last straw.

The sequester in March cut school days and planning days and 3 weeks of teacher pay with it.

Reduced hours kicked in in August and the shutdown followed in October.

In that time, a spokeswoman says, 23 of the centers' 48 teachers left and many cited the need for more stability.

"They need to know that they're gonna have a paycheck and they're not gonna be shut down," Early Child Development Manager Angela Mills said.

"And do you have any indication from Washington that that's not gonna happen again?"

"At this time we don't know. We're just waiting to see what happens in January," Mills said.

Those who work with the three and four year olds here are counting on substitutes to fill the holes right now. They're hoping committed teachers will respond to their "help wanted ads".

"We've strived for a long time to build a strong core of people who truly love our children and want their best interest to be taken care of," Mills said. "It doens't pay great but its the greatest job you can have."

For more information on job openings and requirements call Head Start at 222-2043.

By Julie Montanaro
October 8, 2013

Nearly 400 children are back in class today ... one week after the federal shutdown forced nine Head Start centers in our area to shut down too.

It wasn't Congress - but a private donor - who made it possible.

Melissa Lynch has been teaching little ones at Head Start for 18 years.

The past week has been one of the most stressful of her career.

"Never like a complete shutdown like this. This was pretty overwhelming to have to go through this and our families ... uggh," Lynch said with a sigh. "I feel like we were at a loss for them, that we kind of dropped the ball, but it wasn't our fault."

One week ago, nine head start centers in Leon, Jefferson and Franklin Counties were forced to close.

100 employees and the parents of 378 children were on pins and needles wondering when Congress would come up with a deal.

They're still waiting on that, but private donors - Laura and John Arnold - have given ten million dollars to Head Starts like these to keep the lights on, the doors open and the staff paid until November first.

"It's temporary, but I don't like looking at it that way, but we are all hoping Congress can start talking to each other so they can resolve it and pass a budget and we won't have to worry about it," Head Start Director Laurie Leiner said.

The doors re-opened Tuesday morning. Those who work here, and those who count on them to keep their children safe, are hoping they won't have to hold their collective breath again come November first.

"The children, they really need the program and we need it too. We all need our jobs," Lynch said.

The ten million dollars was given to the national Head Start Association and earmarked for seven programs that were forced to close with the shutdown. That includes the ones in our area which are run by the Capital Area Community Action Agency.

By: A.J. Hilton
October 7, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - A $10 million donation from two philanthropists will keep Head Start programs in several states, including Florida and Georgia, open through at least the month of October.

National Head Start Association officials say the donation came from Laura and John Arnold, and will help serve more than 7,000 at-risk children while the government shutdown continues. The Executive Director of the Capital Area Community Agency, Tim Center, says Head Start offices in Leon, Jefferson and Franklin Counties will re-open Tuesday, October 8th. “This is a tremendous gift,” said Center. “This donation will help so many families in our area, and we are just so fortunate to have people that have given so much.”

Programs in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Connecticut, South Carolina and Missouri were closed at the end of the first week of the shutdown. NHSA officials say the programs have been allocated federal funding, but administrators are blocked from accessing the money because of the stalemate in Washington.

The Head Start program helps more than 27 million of the country’s poorest children prepare for kindergarten.

By: Julie Montanaro
October 1, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - The federal shutdown has forced nine Head Start Centers in Leon, Jefferson and Franklin County to shut down.

More than 375 families living in poverty count on Head Start for day care and basic medical and dental care for their children.

That means parents like Victoria Thomas must scramble to make other child care arrangements or face the prospect of missing school or work until they do.

Thomas had choice words for Congress.

"They need to work harder for-- for not only just me but other people that are in my similar situation because we pay our taxes, we support them, and they need to support us," Thomas said.

Thomas is a full time graduate student at FAMU. She is now trying to find a friend to watch her four year old daughter and is even considering taking the child to class with her.

These are the families who can least afford to miss work, Capital Area Community Action Agency Executive Director Tim Center said.

The centers also employ about 100 teachers and aides who are now out of work. They had already been furloughed due to the sequester.

The head of the Capital Area Community Action Agency says they depend almost entirely on federal funding and are hoping Congress reaches a deal fast.

"They're essentially kicking them while they're down," Center said.

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