Poverty and Public Health
8:35 pm
Thu July 18, 2013

Sequestration Shuts Down NM Head Start Centers

Head Start programs serve kids up to age 5.  Early childhood advocates say it prepares them for elementary school and beyond.
Head Start programs serve kids up to age 5. Early childhood advocates say it prepares them for elementary school and beyond.
Credit Neighborhood Centers via Flickr

Children of low-income families who get free early education services in northern New Mexico will have to seek help elsewhere because two Head Start centers are closing as part of the the federal deficit cutting plan known as sequestration.  Presbyterian Medical Services, the nonprofit that gives a “head start” to hundreds of children before kindergarten, is feeling the pinch and cutting services.   

At the Head Start on Santa Fe’s west side children under five interact with their teachers and aides in a curriculum that prepares them for elementary school.  But because funding cuts of  five and a quarter-percent this year, Presbyterian Medical Services, the nonprofit that runs 12 Head Start centers in Santa Fe County is shutting down several programs, including one in Chimayo and one on the campus of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. 

Michelle Quintana is the manager of children’s programs for PMS, which has had to drop 80 low-income families from Head Start across the state due to budget cuts of $711-thousand.

“You know Head Start and Early Head Start are so much more than just education," said Quintana.  "It really is a comprehensive program that helps the family in a whole bunch of different ways and to know that we’re gonna be able to serve less families who really really need it during these economic times is heartbreaking.”

Besides learning through activities like junior basketball and dance, storytelling and touching plants and animals, kids in Head Start receive screening for hearing, vision and learning disabilities before they start school.  Quintana says a teacher and an educational assistant face layoffs in Santa Fe County and dozens of others across the state will take furloughs for up to two weeks.  Presbyterian Medical Services will cut the number of kids they serve from 1500 to 1420 with a budget of $13.5-million.