Government Shutdown Forces Mississippi Head Starts to Close - WHLT 22 Connecting the Pine Belt

Government Shutdown Forces Mississippi Head Starts to Close

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Cuts in education funding increase all the time, but what happens when the government shutdown means no grants at all?

The longer the impasse last, the more likely it'll be that public schools and universities could be affected.  A program in the most immediate danger, however is Head Start.

More than 1 million pre-schoolers across the US could be affected.  About 20 districts in 11 states had to close their doors October 1.  Day one of the shut down happened to also be day one of their grant cycle.

One of these - the 5 County ChildDdevelopment Program consists of Simpson, Lawrence, Covington and Jefferson Davis Counties.

Children too young to understand what's going on in Washington only know that they can't go to school.

"Of course being that we're a single purpose agency, our options were to shut down because we didn't have funds to operate past the normal funding," Executive Director Jonathan Bines said.

He said since closing the doors October first, he's concerned about the parents of nearly 900 3-5-year-olds who ask him what to do in an area with limited child-care options and even more limited funds.

He said empty classrooms amount to hundreds of unpaid teachers and administrators who, in turn, will not be able to contribute to the local economy.

Besides that, Bines said without Head Start these students could fall behind where they should be when they start kindergarten.

"Head Start provides a very valuable service for children from disadvantaged backgrounds," Bines Said.  "Just like it states, it gives children a head start because of the wide array of services that we offer."

Luckily, Bines said he recently learned that philanthropists Laura and John Arnold are donating about $10-million to help support the centers that had to close.

"They took the reigns and decided to make a difference for the children that it's affecting, so we will be looking into that," Bines said.

He hopes to have kids back in the classrooms for the remainder of the month thanks to these funds.  And in the future, he plans on promoting community partnerships to avoid closures in the future.

"We're going to be looking at different ways to see how can we raise money in an event that an emergency happens of this nature, maybe we can support the program to sustain a little while until another grant funding day comes around," Bines said.

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