Our children deserve better
Sadly, because of sequestration, which simply amounts to budget cuts, our Congress has begun to dismantle the historically successful Head Start early-learning program for low- and moderate-income children.
Here at Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action, which administers the three-county Head Start program, we’ve had to furlough teachers. That’s bad enough. But when haphazard decisions begin to eat away at an educational program with a proven track record of success, our impoverished youth are at risk of falling further and further behind.
At Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action, our Head Start program serves 672 students. Head Start is a comprehensive preschool program designed to strengthen the young child and his or her family. The program provides low-income families access to educational services that promote self-sufficiency. The program offers education and early-childhood development, comprehensive health-care programming, parent-involvement programming and family services.
The program has 142 employees, and 32 percent are former Head Start parents. All of our teachers have an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree. Fourteen family-service staffers work one-on-one with Head Start families to assist them in meeting their self-sufficiency goals. Mental health and nutrition are vital components in the Head Start experience. Nutritious meals and snacks are served daily. Also, all Head Start students receive annual physicals, dental examinations, immunizations and mental-health screenings. In addition, the program provides extensive services to children with special needs.
Head Start is committed to parent involvement and kindergarten readiness to ensure a firm foundation and academic success. The program specializes in developmentally appropriate literacy activities coupled with strategies that promote independence and preparation for the transition from home to school. To promote parent involvement, Head Start sponsors parent trainings, a resource fair, parent meetings and fatherhood activities. Parents are also invited to serve on the Head Start Policy Council.
Such programs should not be under assault. Our children will one day grow up and make decisions that will change and influence our quality of living. We should protect theirs for two main reasons: they deserve it, and they should be fully prepared to manage the responsibilities they will face as adult citizens. The program lost 45 children and eight staff positions because of sequestration.
Head Start also has an North Carolina Pre-K component is funded by the Partnership for Children of Johnston County.
E. Marie Watson
Executive director, Johnston-Lee-Harnett Community Action