Less money for Head Start

Low student enrollment leads to reduced funding in 2018


Decreasing enrollment at Navajo Nation Head Start is prompting the U.S. Office of Head Start to seek a reduction in the tribe’s funds by $7.2 million as of March 1, 2018.

Speaking to the Health, Education and Human Services Committee during their Monday meeting, Tommy Lewis, superintendent of Department of Diné Education, said this suggestion comes due to low enrollment.

Navajo Head Start is given a quota of 2,150 students to be recruited each year but reaching that number has been a problem and is causing Office of Head Start to write and say they’re reducing federal funds.

“Office of Head Start is strongly recommending that funding be reduced,” said Lewis to the committee.

Each year Navajo Head Start receives about $22.3 million based on the quota but not only will these funds drop to about $15.7 million but its quota requirement will be reduced to 1,309.

The Navajo Nation was warned about this possible decrease in a Dec. 19, 2016, letter to Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye.

Linda K. Smith, deputy assistant secretary for the Early Childhood Development at the Administration for Children and Families, stated in the letter that funds for Navajo Head Start could be reduced if nothing was done about the under-enrollment problem.

“Throughout the past ten years we have documented several weaknesses in program management and fiscal oversight of Head Start,” said Smith in the letter. “These weaknesses have resulted in thousands of Navajo Nation children not having opportunities to participate in Head Start or child care annually.”

She also noted that the $12 million request made by Navajo Head Start and Early Head Start programs was denied that same month, because of ongoing under-enrollment issues.

Earlier this month, Elvira Bitsoi was named interim director for Navajo Head Start and inherited these issues. Timothy Benally was the acting director since June 28.

The inability of making the quota was also noted in another September 2017 letter from Ann Linehan, acting director for the Office of Head Start, where she stated that funds will decrease starting March 1, 2018.

Lewis explained some reasons why Head Start has such low numbers, such as it having a bad reputation on social media and the news media so parents are thinking twice before enrolling their child and opting for public or grant schools.

“Parents have a choice … we are in competition with public school … they have pre-K programs that is funded by state government,” said Lewis. “Another option they have is grant schools that are applying for funding … that’s what we are up against.”

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Categories: News
Tags: Head Start

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