Rapid City Head Start faces tough cuts - KOTA Territory News

Rapid City Head Start faces tough cuts

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Congress faces a March 1 deadline to come up with a deficit reduction plan or $1.2 trillion in budget cuts will automatically go into effect.  If that happens, one program affected is Head Start, a no cost preschool alternative for low-income families.

South Dakota currently receives more than $21 million of federal funding for head start.  The March 1 cuts would knock off nearly $2 million.  Almost 700 kids attend head start classes every day in Rapid City.

"It gives them the social education before they go to kindergarten.  It also gives them the pre-learning skills: their shapes, colors, number recognition, letters," said Head Start teacher Meghan King.

"Head Start is primarily designed to be a program for low-income families," said Operations Director David Miller.

"Some of them have very low paying jobs or no jobs and it just gives their kids a chance to get an education without having to pay for preschool," said King.

Head Start is completely funded with federal money and if the March 1 budget cuts happen, King's class could see the chopping block and she could lose her job.

"If they end up cutting Head Start, that's some of our classrooms gone.  So it's some of the teachers gone and it's huge, it's no job," said King.

Miller believes Youth and Family Services would need to cut two to five classes and four to ten teachers would lose their jobs.  But King says it's the children who will lose the most.

"I really like watching them grow from when they start to when they finish here and I enjoy helping their families and being that mentor that they may need," said King.

Miller says if Congress stands pat the cuts would likely not affect Head Start until next school year.  Miller also says that Head Start would serve about 35 fewer children as a result of these cuts.

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