Greater East Texas Head Start waits for answers

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - "It's a lot of if's, what if's," is how Nacogdoches Head Start director Weldon Beard explains the last few months.

No sooner did Head Start directors learn federal funding is guaranteed through September, did they start worrying about 2012. They ask, "are we going to have to restructure, reorganize, maybe possibly, even, reducing the number of slots, which we do not want to do," said Beard.

There's little time for celebration. Nacogdoches ISD announced it will continue its Pre-K program, but is limited in what it can do for Head Start. The district will continue to provide space for a couple of Head Start classes, but at this point, can no longer provide the teachers. It's a matter of compromise.

"The overwhelming consideration by all the elementary principals is that they're willing to sacrifice their after school tutorial funds in order to make sure we have the full day Pre-K program," explained Dr. Rodney Hutto, NISD superintendent.

There are still other agreements to be worked out. "We're actually in five counties working with probably about 25 school districts and each school district has the its own way of looking at things, as far as budget cuts," said Beard.

Children play. Administrators deal with anxiety. "And I know they are in limbo right now waiting on the state budget to come down for what they're going to be doing next year," said Beard.

District superintendents wonder if student growth funding, something they've always counted on, will go away. "We're anticipating about 300 new students to the district this next year. We don't know how that's going to impact us as well, so it's going to be a scramble," said Hutto.

The uncertainties are enough to make decision makers wish they were four again. The Pre-K programs help low income parents. They can hold down a job, knowing their children are receiving good care and instruction. If it goes away, many families will have to pay for expensive child care or quit their jobs. "It has a huge impact on parents," said Beard.

Registration is underway for Nacogdoches Pre-K, as well as for Head Start Pre-K.

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