MEDFORD, Ore. — It’s an empty feeling for Southern Oregon Head Start.
“We’ll be serving 79 fewer children in Early Head Start and Head Start combined,” Nancy Nordyke commented with Southern Oregon Head Start.
The budget cuts from the sequester means significant changes for the preschool program, fewer children in need will be in the classrooms in a few weeks.
“We’re really disappointed by not being able to serve more children and families, because obviously there’s a lot of need out there and we have a waiting list, and we can’t serve as many children as we can,” Nordyke added.
The director of Southern Oregon Head Start says three classes have been cut in Medford and Grants Pass, and 19 positions have been eliminated. Even transportation to several classes has been reduced, and the effects are nationwide, where 57,000 slots for children have been eliminated.
Siskiyou County Early Head Start says it will have 24 fewer children, and has cut 2 employees.
“We know that children who live in poverty are at a great disadvantage by the time they get to public school if they don’t have some preschool and additional services,” Nordyke said.
And the outlook is murky. Officials say they can’t plan for the future until lawmakers settle on the budget.
“We don’t know what will happen then,” Nordyke explained. “We’re hoping that there won’t be additional cuts, we would love to have our funds restored so that we can provide services to those children again.”
And they worry that instead of a Head Start, affected children will be falling behind. Southern Oregon Head Start will be holding a demonstration later this week at the Merriman Campus. They will have 79 empty seats to represent the 79 fewer children in the program this year.