Head Start Services to be Reduced Following Veto of Alaska Head Start Funding
Juneau, AK (July 22, 2019) – Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska’s (Tlingit & Haida) Head Start program is expected to lose $441,171 in funding if the State of Alaska no longer funds the program. The funding was eliminated entirely in Governor Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget and later vetoed after the Alaska Legislature attempted to reinstate it. Of the $8.8 million in budget cuts to Early Education program funding, $6.8 million is Alaska Head Start funding. The Alaska Head Start Association estimates that the cuts will have a statewide impact with 130 jobs lost and 500 fewer children served.
Head Start is the state’s largest provider of early education services. In total, $46 million in federal Head Start funding was brought into Alaska last year. The funding requires a 20 percent non-federal match of $11 million. Since 2010, the $6.8 million in state funding has served as the foundation for the match requirement. Prior to that, the state provided $5.8 million to help meet the match. Until this year, Tlingit & Haida received approximately $441,000 annually in state Head Start funding to fulfill the required non-federal match.
In 1978, Tlingit & Haida began providing Head Start services to families throughout Southeast Alaska. The program provides high-quality, comprehensive early childhood programming and promotes school-readiness to families served, particularly to low-income families with children experiencing homelessness, foster care, and/or a learning disability. Tlingit & Haida’s Head Start program has grown to serve 262 children across 10 Southeast Alaska communities. Two of three children served by Tlingit & Haida’s Head Start program experience homelessness, foster care, and/or poverty.
“The Head Start funding we receive through the state is crucial to Tlingit & Haida and other organizations that administer Head Start programs,” shared President Richard (Chalyee Éesh) Peterson. “Without it, we are forced to look at some very tough decisions that will impact children, families and communities.”
If funding is not restored, Tlingit & Haida’s Head Start program will have no choice but to reduce services. Although Tlingit & Haida is working diligently to reduce impacts and will continue to look at all options before determining a specific plan, teaching positions in two communities (yet to be determined) will more than likely have to be eliminated along with all bus services resulting in 38-40 fewer children served.
“Although I am holding on to hope that our elected officials will find a healthy solution, I know that eliminating state funding of all Alaska Head Start programs is not the answer,” stated Tlingit & Haida Head Start Director Amber Frommherz. “The most unfortunate result of these cuts will be that Alaska’s most vulnerable children will lose access to vital services. I encourage everyone to reach out to their representatives and advocate for Alaska’s children.”