Preschool is critical in the social and academic development of children before they head off to kindergarten, but now, federal cuts are making one tri-state Head Start program shut some children out.
The Head Start program in Lee County has to slash its budget by hundreds of thousands of dollars just to stay afloat because of federal budget cuts.
That means fewer kids in the classroom come next fall.
Kids at Head Start in Fort Madison took a break from learning Wednesday morning to play outside.
But because the program is losing $260,000 in federal funding next fall, there will be fewer kids on this playground soon.
Community Action of Southeast Iowa Family Services Coordinator Kris Tate oversees the Head Start programs in the area and says the budget reductions will mean they will have to cut the number of kids in the program.
And that's something Tate says will hurt families that need the services.
"Our lower income kids are the ones that are set a disadvantage just by being low income kids compared to families that make a bit more money," said Tate.
Tate says the kids they have to shut out because of the cuts will not be as prepared when they start kindergarten as the ones who've gone through Head Start.
"They've gained all the skills that they need in order to be able to be ready to learn, and unfortunately when we are cutting slots there's a bunch of kids that are just sitting at home," said Tate.
Family Development Specialist Dolly Stancil says there's a real need for services like Head Start in the area and the cuts will impact many families.
"Most of our families are working but the income is very low, but they just need that extra help now and then," said Stancil.
Tate says their program is running on the bare minimums right now, so she hopes their program isn't the victim of more cuts in the future.
"We're at the point where you have your necessary services and you're balancing which one can we reduce or cut and still maintain a quality of services,"said Tate.
Officials at Community Action of Southeast Iowa say they are asking for any donations from the community to maintain services and to update their facilities.
If you would like to donate you are encouraged to call Kris Tate at (319) 753-0193.
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