E Texas Head Start programs will soon be more sequestration victims

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Federal cuts in the greater East Texas Community Action Program are leading to layoffs and reduced services region wide. The deepest cuts are to the head start program offered in five counties.

The non-profit agency is into its third year of streamlining.

All the Greater East Texas Community Action Programs - education, weatherization, and energy assistance - in 12-county region are facing federal budget cuts.

"The main parts of our offices that are in the outreach counties of Smith, Cherokee, Rusk we started looking real close at how we can trim up those offices even more," Karen Swenson, the GET-CAP executive director, said.

But time is running out faster for head start employees. It happens this summer.

"We'll be laying off 80 individuals and they'll be laid off, 80-plus individuals and they'll be out of work for about 10 weeks," Swenson said. "It's a short-term layoff but that's the only choice that we have."

The temporary layoffs will be seen in Nacogdoches, Walker, Trinity, Houston, and San Jacinto counties.

Permanent layoffs are happening too. Services will be cut in some areas.

"We had to start making a really tough look at the number of children we're serving and that's painful," Swenson said.

"About 12-15 positions total in our five county service area that we're looking at, staff positions that will have to be eliminated," Weldon Beard, the director of Head Start, said.

With all the bad news there is some good news. It comes from the Nacogdoches Independent School District and their commitment to educating very young children.

"In NISD, we're going to pick up the education for those children in Pre-K that qualify for Head Start," Dr. Fred Hayes, the Nacogdoches ISD superintendent, said.

The school district will fund a full day's education for the ones who need a head start in life.

"In Nacogdoches, we have 8 out of 10 kids are economically disadvantaged. That's a pretty serious situation," Hayes said.

About 40 children could be picked up by the Nacogdoches District. An exact count and the affected campuses won't be official until next week.

Greater East Texas Community Action Program administrators say the quality of service won't go away for their clients. They also tell clients staff reductions could lead to longer waits for application approvals.

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