Sequestration frustration

Rock Hill schools, Head Start, emergency heat, more face reduced services from sequestration

adys@heraldonline.comMarch 1, 2013 

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Federal budget cuts that take effect Friday are not just about politicians arguing over money. These cuts mean area schools will lose money that pays for tutors and remedial programs for kids who are struggling.

The poorest kids of all ages will feel the leading edge of the budget machete, with cuts across the spectrum from milk for babies to special reading helpers and high school programs that give students job skills.

The old and disabled who depend on government help to keep the lights on and the furnace working also will feel the cuts.

“What this does is hit the school districts hardest that need it the most, and that makes it truly unfair,” said York schools Superintendent Vernon Prosser.

The York school district could lose 8 percent of its money – at least $250,000 – but Prosser said no layoffs are expected because of the federal cuts.

“The place that we help children who are behind,” he said, “that one-on-one extra help and extra time we call it, is where the cuts in federal funding are being made.”

Cuts also extend to technical and career education – the technology centers so crucial to helping students develop job skills.

All area school districts will have at least 5 percent of their federal money slashed. Most of those funds come to the districts for Title I programs that target schools with large numbers of low-income students. Other cuts will come in English as a second language programs and other one-on-one assistance for students.

Layoffs are not expected, officials with all four York County school districts said, but the extra help aimed at the kids who need it most will be slashed – and possibly cut to the bone.

At the Rock Hill school district, cuts, estimated at $600,000 or more, will “absolutely affect programs,” said Superintendent Lynn Moody.

Tutors paid through federal programs could be let go, Moody said.

“Without question, we will have to do some rearranging,” Moody said. “Most of this money goes for helping students get caught up. This is difficult, at the very least.”

Fort Mill and Clover schools official said programs will not be affected.

Some funding cuts will hit even before children get to kindergarten.

Thursday was Program and Parent Day at Rock Hill Head Start.

Kids sang, parents came and clapped, teachers cried at the achievements and successes and growth of the 263 kids in Rock Hill who attend the pre-kindergarten classes.

In York and Chester, Lancaster and Union, 864 kids go to Head Start.

All sang of success on Thursday.

Josephine Rowland, 72, who has spent a lifetime teaching tiny children, hugged the children in her class and said, “I hope this does not go away for some of them. They have come so far.”

Today, there will be no songs for some kids.

Because of this sequestration, Head Start will implement plans to cut slots for 51 of those kids and at least two staff members.

All programs administered by the nonprofit Carolina Community Actions will be slashed by 5 to 10 percent.

“It’s a killer,” executive director Walter Kellogg said.

A program that helps high school dropouts get back to school will be cut back, as will emergency assistance for the elderly, poor and disabled. At the Carolina Community Actions emergency assistance intake office Thursday, a dozen people waited for help to pay for heat. At least one will not get it because of the cuts.

The Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program that provides food for poor mothers with infants will be cut, according to the White House. So will money for housing for the poor.

Jim Beasley, spokesman for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, which administers WIC, said Thursday that no information has been shared with DHEC about what the cuts would be.

The bottom line: The schools that teach kids as young as 3 and the places that help the elderly and sick and infirm will have to make do with less.

The goal of programs such as Head Start is to have all kids ready when they enter school, so that those tutoring programs – also in danger at elementary, middle and high schools – won’t be needed so much.

Sequestration cuts will hammer both ends of that rope that the poor use to climb into an America where government assistance is not needed.

At Head Start in Rock Hill on Thursday, there were more than a dozen classrooms of children. Parent Shana Culp talked about how much her daughter has learned there.

“I hope they don’t cut this, or any other program, because these kids are getting what they need before going into the Rock Hill schools,” Culp said. “How can they cut what works?”

The kids sang songs about Martin Luther King Jr. They held hands. Many dressed up as historical figures: Rosa Parks, George Washington Carver, Barack Obama.

They sang so loud and proud.

They put their hands over their hearts, all of them except one little boy who waved an American flag. He waved and waved so much that his arm got tired, so he switched hands.

They recited together what each learned in Head Start: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065 adys@heraldonline.com

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