EDITORIAL: Head Start cuts disheartening

Published 9:09 pm Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The news sounded too good to be true. As it turns out, it was. We first reported a little more than two weeks ago that the Black Belt Community Foundation had been awarded a $1.4 million grant to oversee the area’s Head Start program.

While that’s still great news and it will be fantastic to have Head Star back under local leadership, word started to get out that the program wouldn’t serve nearly as many students as in the past.

In the past two weeks, we’ve heard from parents in places like Orrville that will no longer have a local Head Start in their community.

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Black Belt Community Foundation president Felecia Lucky confirmed the cuts this week. Previous Head Start grants provided the service for 670 children, this year’s funding will cover less than half that number.

The Black Belt Community Foundation certainly shouldn’t be faulted. The foundation wanted the full funding and applied for it, but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services made the decision to reduce funding.

“It was our goal in our application to serve all the sites that were currently being served, but the Office of Head Start chose a different funding route,” Lucky said.

The news is disappointing to say the least. Children across the Black Belt already have so many disadvantages, making drastic cuts to a program that can help students get a leg up on their education is discouraging.

One silver lining is that all 254 returning students will have a spot in Head Start this fall. However, centers at George Washington Carver Homes, J.E. Terry Elementary, Keith High School and Trinity Lutheran will close.

Head Start in Dallas County has had a rocky few years. The Central Alabama Child Development and CDC oversaw the program until June 2015, when the organization lost its federal funding.

Since then, Community Development Institute Head Start out of Colorado has been overseeing the program.

Things seemed to be going in the right direction with the BBCF being awarded the grant going forward. The foundation held a job fair at Concordia just days after learning it received the grant for this year and is hiring dozens of people. There’s definitely excitement surrounding the program again.

However, the news of the Head Start cuts inevitably lets some of the air out of that balloon.

Lucky said U.S. Congresswoman Terri Sewell, a native of Selma, had a meeting Wednesday with the Office of Head Start. We’re keep our fingers crossed that some good news comes from that meeting.

We’re sure BBCF will do a great job but hope that funding can be restored in future years to provide more children across the Black Belt the opportunity to learn.