Head Start and Early Head Start programs in Wise County will be spared from the budget-cutting ax.
The Texas Neighborhood Services board of directors Wednesday considered three options to cut nearly half a million dollars from the Head Start and Early Head Start budget in the nine-county area it serves. TNS operates the programs as well as providing help with utility payments to low-income residents.
Cuts were necessary due to sequestration, a measure meant to reduce spending by mandating across-the-board spending cuts of federally-funded programs.
In order to meet that requirement, TNS was faced with eliminating three Head Start classes and two Early Head Start classes. The board had previously considered reducing the services it provides but decided to reduce quantity rather than quality, TNS Executive Director Brad Manning said. By eliminating the five classes, TNS would save $330,306.
“I know the difficulty in this. None of this is good. It’s tough,” board Chairman Dick Chase of Wise County said as the board began to consider where the required cuts would come from.
After reviewing the three options, the board decided to cut three Head Start classes in Navarro County (from 12 to nine) and two Early Head Start classes in Palo Pinto County (from six to four). With two teachers in each classroom, that means a reduction in force of 10 teachers. It also represents 60 children in Head Start and 16 children in Early Head Start.
One option that was not chosen included cutting one Head Start class and one Early Head Start class in Wise County along with two Head Start classes in Navarro County and one Early Head Start class in Palo Pinto County. The third option would have cut three Head Start classes in Navarro County, one Early Head Start class in Palo Pinto County and one Early Head Start class in Somervell County.
Each county eyed for cuts was considered “overserved” rather than “underserved” based on census data of children under age 5 living in poverty, Manning said.
Other approved cuts include a 5 percent reduction in health insurance rates, the elimination of an administrative assistant position and moving a community services position from full-time to part-time. Manning said that would still leave TNS about $50,000 short of the goal, but those cuts will come from operating cost reductions due to the closing of the five classes.
“Instead of trying to close another classroom, we’re going to suck it up,” Manning said. “When you close (five) classrooms, you will have some operating cost reductions. … We’ll have less supplies. We’re going to make those areas save $50,000.”
The changes were approved by the TNS policy board, made up of parent representatives, a few hours after the board met.
TNS operates Head Start centers in Decatur, Boyd and Bridgeport and Early Head Start centers in Decatur and Boyd. A total of 141 students in Wise and Jack Counties are currently served by those locations.
The nine-county area served by TNS includes Wise, Jack, Parker, Palo Pinto, Erath, Somervell, Hood, Johnson and Navarro.