Forty fewer kids in the state’s poorest ZIP code will have the opportunity to attend free preschool this fall as funding cutbacks for the Head Start program take hold.
The program operated at the Institute for Extended Learning’s Hillyard Center for 23 years.
“The bottom line is we will not be able to serve families in this community, and our wait list was into the hundreds,” said Patty Allen, a Head Start district director. “There are 40 kids who likely would have been eligible who won’t be served.”
She added, “There is more need in this community than there are services available.”
Federal sequestration is blamed for the lack of funds.
The 5 percent-plus across-the-board cut was intended to force Congress into a budget compromise. Head Start is one of many social services hit by the cuts.
Community Colleges of Spokane manages the Head Start programs in Spokane County, and officials learned this spring they would have to trim the Head Start budget by about $450,000, college officials said. The Hillyard Center lost two morning and two afternoon classes in Head Start, a preschool program for 4- and 5-year-olds, as well as six slots in Early Head Start, which serves children up to 3 years old.
With the loss of the Hillyard location, the number of sites operated by the college will be reduced to 10. There’s room for 839 children throughout Spokane County, and all the programs have waiting lists.
Statewide about 1,000 slots are being eliminated due to the federal sequester, said Joel Ryan, executive director of the Washington State Association of Head Start and ECEAP programs.
“We are as hopeful as anybody else that (President Barack) Obama and Congress will decide to undo this sequester,” he said. If they don’t, Head Start programs will have to be cut again next year.
Hillyard’s Head Start programs were going to be moved in the fall of 2014 anyway, Allen said. With the north-south freeway construction coming soon, the college plans to merge many of the programs operated at the Hillyard Center, 4410 N. Market St., into Spokane Community College’s.
The Head Start classes were likely being moved to the Northeast Community Center, where other classes are currently operated.
Said Allen, “These services are lost indefinitely, unless some other funding becomes available.”