EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) Budget cuts are affecting preschoolers nation-wide, including Western Wisconsin.
The sequester cut more than 5.2 percent of the Head Start program's budget, forcing Eau Claire and nearby counties to enroll 25 fewer kids this year.
The national Head Start Association announced Monday the sequester lead to nearly $405 million cut from Head Start nationwide, including about $177,000 in Eau Claire, Jackson, Trempealeau and Buffalo Counties.
Staff at Western Dairyland Community Action Agency, who runs the program in the Eau Claire area, said it’s running out of ways to scale back.
Nicole Stokes of Eau Claire brought her four-year-old daughter Molly to register for Head Start Monday. She said Molly loved being there last year, meeting new friends and learning valuable lessons.
“She loved singing, she learned how to write her name,” Stokes said. “She's a lot more confident around other children now where she wasn't before.”
But this year, 25 fewer low-income families with kids ages 3 to 5 will have that opportunity for preschool and other resources.
“Everybody in the family gets services through head start. So this is affecting more than 25 children. It's affecting the families of those 25 children,” Western Dairyland Communications Coordinator Dale Karls said.
He said Head Start has had to do more with the same or less funding for the past seven years, and was forced to lay off a family service specialist.
“The funding could come back, but we're not optimistic about it. We're looking at more private donations to fund the program this year and next year and the future,” Karls said.
“I've seen a lot of parents involved in Head Start become much more active parents. That's what we want.”
“Funding should be upped, it's our kids' education and it matters,” Stokes said. “I as a parent, I can do a lot, but I can't teach them everything,” she said.
Karls said the head start program has been true to its name, with some kids entering not knowing English, and leaving, knowing how to read in English. He said it fills up every year, but there are still spots available at this time.
For more information on the program and who qualifies, visit the Eau Claire office at 418 Wisconsin St. or call (715) 836-7511 extension 115.