Nearly 2,200 young children will be out of school starting next week because of the federal government shutdown.
The non-profit group Ninth District Opportunity, Inc. is based in Gainesville and runs Head Start programs in 20 counties in north Georgia. Head Start is a federally-funded preschool program for low-income children across the country.
A statement posted to the Ninth District’s website blamed the closures on “the current GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN brought on by Congress’s failure to pass a budget for Fiscal Year 2014.”
The organization said 27 Pre-K classrooms, along with 113 Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms will be closed to students. Parents will have to find alternative care for their children beginning Monday.
“This is really disheartening,” said Juanita Yancey, executive officer of the Georgia Head Start Associaiton.
Yancey said the closures will also impact 500 program employees.
This comes at an already difficult time for Head Start programs. Like most agencies that depend on federal money, Head Start grantees had to slash their budgets because of automatic federal budget cuts. Yancey explained, however, the shutdown is even more devastating.
“With sequestration, yes, there are budget cuts that will reduce the number of children that can receive Head Start services for this fiscal year, but to actually really see this type of impact where 2,200 children will be losing services unless there is some type of deal worked out in Washington is just really disturbing,” shared Yancey.
But there have been some bright spots in the news. Yancey said one woman called her to ask if there was some way she could help keep the children in school.
“I just got a call from just a regular Georgia citizen who heard the impact of this and she called a few minutes ago to see what she could do,” Yancey said. “That helps lighten the situation some.”