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Head Start program facing federal cuts

By Megan Brantley, mbrantley@wcyb.com
Published On: Feb 27 2013 04:50:40 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 27 2013 08:48:17 PM CST

There are only two days left until automatic cuts happen on a federal level, but those cuts will threaten jobs and services to everyone locally as well.

KINGSPORT, Tenn. -

There are only two days left until automatic cuts happen on a federal level, but those cuts will threaten jobs and services to everyone locally as well.

Director of the Upper East Tennessee Head Start program Flo Abel said it could have an impact on the kids there. The Head Start program is for young children to learn basic skills before going to kindergarten. "We do letters, numbers, writing, reading and then we have a different curriculum; gun safety and drug safety," said Bentha Rupard, teacher at Head Start.

Rupard says for some, the education is vital. "Some of these kids, if they did not come to Head Start they would go to kindergarten with no background in anything academic. Some of them wouldn't even hold a pencil before going into kindergarten," she said.

Abel told us program covers eight counties and provides education to more than 1,000 children.

They have a $7.8 million budget, but that could all come to an end. The clock is ticking as Congress works to pass a new budget plan, and if they don't it could mean a 5.1 percent cut. "That's $402,000 and some change. That's big money," said Abel.

That’s money that would no longer pay for 54 kids in the program. "I'm trying to figure out how not to make classroom cuts. 54 children, that's a lot of children," said Abel. Moreover, she says it isn’t fair. "We're talking about the most at-risk children and families in our communities and ripping some of the underpinning that they have," she said.

Abel told us they are doing all they can to keep the quality of the program.