Council covers Head Start’s deficit


Navajo Times | Rima Krisst
Council Delegate Leonard Tsosie listens to a presentation during Summer Session of the Navajo Nation Council.

Trying to ensure that Navajo Head Start’s legal woes won’t affect the coming school year, the Navajo Nation Council voted to allocate the program $6.3 million from the Unreserved, Undesignated Fund during the second day of the summer session.

Last year, Navajo Head Start and the Navajo Nation were caught in a funding feud with the U.S. Administration for Children and Families, Head Start’s funding body.

The local program had not met its quota of students, prompting the federal government to withhold $7.3 million of its funding. After appealing this in federal court, the Navajo Nation won but the program again fell short of its enrollment quota of 2,150 this year, meaning Navajo Head Start will have its funding reduced from $23 million to $15.7 million.

“We are talking about appealing but we are told the appeal will be that much more difficult to take on,” said Tommy Lewis, director of Department of Dine Education. “But we are going to try to have those monies restored. In the mean time we don’t want our Head Start to be hindered.” Lewis said the appeal process could take months.

Aug. 6 is the first day of school for all of Navajo Head Start and the $6.3 million from the UUFB would help immensely to make sure everything runs smoothly. The $6.3 million will go toward personnel expenses for salaries, fringe benefits, liability insurance and worker’s compensation. It will cover the expenses for the period of March 1 to June 30.

“We come before you again so that we can confidently and competently move forward in a new school year,” said Navajo Head Start Director Elvira Bitsoi.

“In two weeks it will be the first day of school and we are preparing, we are opening 114 centers throughout Navajo and yet we are told we are cut. It’s been an oppressive action from the federal government but we will do the best we can.”

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Categories: Education

About Author

Arlyssa Becenti

Arlyssa Becenti reports on Navajo Nation Council, Business, Fort Defiance Agency, New Mexico State politics and Art/fashion. Her clans are Nát'oh dine'é Táchii'nii, Bit'ahnii, Kin łichii'nii, Kiyaa'áanii. She’s originally from Fort Defiance and has a degree in English Literature from Arizona State University. Before working for the Navajo Times she was a reporter for the Gallup Independent. She can be reached at