Salt Lake and Tooele County’s federally funded Head Start program has survived the recent government shutdown without dropping kids off the list. The real challenge has been the so-called sequestration. Head Start is a development program including meals that serves 2000 preschoolers and their families through SL-Cap/Head Start. Joni Clark is the community partnership manager. She says sequestration forced them to cut $660,000 from the current budget. Clark says the staff took the largest hit with the end of their 403b retirement match as well as cuts to their training and technical assistance budget.
"Which was hard on the employees definitely but all of the staff believed so much in the mission that we really tried hard not to cut services to children,” she says.
Clark says they have funding through the end of the year but the looming debt ceiling debate in January does not bode well for the agency.
“If we get hit again with sequestration in this next coming calendar year, we will have to cut classrooms and children,” says Clark.
Clark says their main goal is to get children kindergarten-really for public schools so that they are on a level playing field with their more affluent peers. She says there are always about a thousand kids on the waiting list to get into the program so more cuts would mean more kids arriving unprepared for kindergarten. Proposed state funding for preschool failed in the last legislative session.