Some central Fla. Head Start programs shut down

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VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. - If lawmakers in Washington don't act soon, it could hurt hundreds of central Florida kids.

The Head Start program in central Florida is supposed to get $9 million but until Congress gets its act together it's not getting a dime.

Volusia County's Head Start program was supposed to get its yearly federal funding this week.

Mid-Florida Community Services gives Head Start its money but because the federal government could not send the big check on Oct. 1, its cash is drying up.

The organization in charge of Head Start could only fund schools like it until Friday.

Next week the doors will be locked and the playground will be empty.

The mother of 3-year-old Destiny said she is overwhelmed with emotions at the prospect of her daughter's Head Start school shutting down.

"How do you tell a 3-year-old? How do you put that in terms or words you can understand?" Chantell Leonard said.

The Head Start program in Volusia County provides services for 625 children and their families.

The 3- to 4-year-olds get education, disability treatment and health care.

The program also help parents with social services and finding jobs.

"They still have a job, but come Friday our teachers will be out of a job, our students will be out of a place to learn. I feel that they are careless," Leonard said.

"They are not caring about children, they are not caring about us."

Including Florida, four Head Start providers that serve 3,200 low-income children in four states are also closing due to the federal government shutdown.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday four grantees that operate about 50 sites are shutting down after not receiving their funding.

The agencies include Talladega Clay Randolph Child Corporation in Alabama; Action for Bridgeport Community Development in Connecticut; Capital Area Community Action Agency in Florida and the Five County Child Development Program in Mississippi.

Twenty-three Head Start agencies nationwide were slated to have their grants renewed on Oct. 1. Many of those are now looking for alternative sources of funding.

Head Start serves more than 1 million low-income children annually, helping prepare them for elementary school while also providing meals and health care.

Brevard County said it has enough for the 2014-2015 school year.

Full statement from Brevard County:

Our schools are getting numerous calls about Head Start from people asking if it will be shut down. Apparently, there have been articles in other counties indicating that their programs will be closed during the Government shut down. Here is some information about Brevard County’s Head Start Program. It would be great if you could get this information out to the community:

  • The local Head Start program is operated as part of the school system, which means we have the financial stability and infrastructure in place to maintain the program without immediate access to funds.  Many Head Start programs across the nation are operated by non-profit organizations that are dependent upon immediate access to funding.  We draw down Head Start funds at different points during the fiscal year and are able to sustain program services in between those periods.
  • The grant award period for School Board of Brevard County Head Start is July 1, 2013 – June 30, 2014.  The funding for Brevard’s program was appropriated prior to the government shutdown which means BPS is not immediately impacted by any gap in funding.
  • The Head Start programs in Brevard Public Schools will continue to operate as expected for this school year and the district is continuing to take applications for the program.  If there is a cut to the Head Start funding for 2014-15 school year, we will make necessary program adjustments for next school year.

Michelle Irwin

Director of District Communications/PIO

Brevard Public Schools