Sequestration forces Head Start to close early, cut back

By Dave Greber

May 2, 2013 Updated May 2, 2013 at 11:51 AM EDT

(WBNG Binghamton) Head Start programs in Broome County will close early this year because Congress has failed to end automatic budget cuts that went into effect March 1.

The four Head Start locations will close eight days early, according to the program's director Brett Dean. That means most programs will end Wednesday.

Head Start is operated by Opportunities for Broome. It receives its funding from the federal government, which allocates money to the nationwide Head Start organization.

They don't normally operate over the summer, and only the Universal Pre-k program for Union-Endicott schools will remain open for the duration, Dean said Wednesday.

The program is forced to cut $109,000 by Oct. 31.

"That's a pretty steep number, and for that time (the summer), is when we don't have children," Dean said.

The early closure will save Head Start approximately half of the cuts needed. The remaining approximately $55,000 will be made up through additional program cuts and potential cuts to its staff, Dean said.

"We want to impact the children and their families as little as possible," Dean said.

Dean said Head Start programs across Broome will open as normal for the next school year, which takes place during the week after Labor Day.

Dean said unless Congress acts, the program will be forced to cut the same amount -- $109,000, or nearly 5.3 percent -- next year. However, he said those cuts would be spread over 12 months, rather than the six months they're facing now.