Despite a White House estimate that 2,700 Florida children would lose access to Head Start, a federally funded educational program for low-income children up to age five, Southwest Florida leaders are optimistic the area will emerged relatively unscathed for now.
At the Immokalee-based Redlands Christian Migrant Association, which serves more than 3,500 children at about 60 sites, officials said there’s flexibility until the end of September when it comes to dealing with funding cuts. Eventually, RCMA officials would have to decide between closing a few of the centers with diminishing demand or closing selected classrooms to keep all centers operating, said Bill Coats, director of communications and marketing.
“We haven’t made specific plans,” Coats said. “I can tell you that the No. 1 motivation is we’d rather cut days than kids.”
Collier County schools Superintendent Kamela Patton said the district “could be OK” when it comes to maintaining current enrollment levels, noting officials have already held back 8 percent of federal funding in anticipation of cuts. The district received $2.88 million in federal Head Start funds in 2011-12, helping serve 582 children.
“If kids don’t end up in Head Start, that’s one less year of education for kids that absolutely need it the most,” Patton said.