Wednesday of last week (May 16, 2012), Fox 8 presented a story titled 'At-risk' preschoolers removed from program due to budget cuts. I was pleased, and I thanked the reporter for taking the time to be responsible enough to investigate concerns before broadcasting inaccurate information to the communities we both serve. Unfortunately, my efforts made no impact on how the story was delivered. Although I’ve been told not to worry about the misconstrued story, I feel the need to provide clarity to those interested in the truth.
In June of 2011, the state of North Carolina Pre–Kindergarten community took a hit when legislators passed their $19.7 billion budget. Embedded within the budget cuts, The More at Four program in Guilford County, which serves 2,200 children, also withstood a sizable cut. Guilford County’s More at Four program, now the North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten Program suffered a 20-percent cut in funding, which equated to roughly 400 + students of the 2,200 Pre-kindergarten slots spread across the county.
Previous to the cuts, Guilford Child Development served 629 four year old students for 180 days (number of days based upon NC Pre-K). As a result of the cuts to NC Pre-K funding, in 2011-2012 program year we received NC Pre-K funding for 98 children less than the previous year. To ensure that these 98 four year old children continued to be served, Head Start Preschool funding was used, which allowed for these children to receive 160 days of service to which the last day of service was May 16, 2012. The remaining 550+ four year old students served via NC Pre-K funding will continue until June 6, 2012.
Understand, none of the four year old students served were abruptly removed from the Guilford Child Development program. Because the Agency was made aware of cuts in the Summer of 2011, Guilford Child Development was able to schedule service days for both groups of four year old children based upon the limits of each funding stream. A percentage of four year old students funded by Head Start funding stream ended their program year approximately 15 days earlier than the majority of the four year old students who were funded by NC Pre-K funding.
A few parents of the 98 four year old students now funded by Head Start were upset because their children's school year was shortened by 15 days, due to the cut in NC Pre-K funding sustained by the Agency. It’s true that NC Pre-K funding was cut, but all 600+ four year old students were served and most will continue to be served until June 6, 2012. No children were terminated from the program or denied services, nor was there a loss in teaching/classroom staff. Many families served through the NC Pre-K Programs countywide
We were alarmed and confused by the broad and incorrect interpretation presented. Guilford Child Development has worked very hard to ensure that the children and families receive our very best care with the resources available to us. We appreciate the continued support from the Head Start Community and the local communities we serve.
Head Start/Early Head Start