The Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees voted to reduce the workforce at the district’s Head Start preschool program at their Tuesday meeting.
Head Start is a free, federally-funded program that serves low-income or at-risk children ages three to five years old. Over 150 children are served through the Head Start classes at the Osborn, Cunningham and Wakefield elementary school sites.
While Head Start is totally funded through federal dollars, the trustees felt the program was at risk.
“What’s happened over time is the funding was going 97 percent to salaries and benefits so there’s no money left to buy snacks and supplies,” said TUSD Board president Frank Lima. “All the money is still being used for the targeted population, low-income pre-kindergarteners.”
California School Employees Association Labor Relations Representative Kyle Harvey questioned why the district needed to make reductions to the Head Start workers when there’s been no reduction in funding for the program.
“I’m trying to understand how the work is going to get completed without the workers,” Harvey said. “It’s just going to be one more thing our needy families won’t have.”
The reductions will affect Head Start teachers, teacher’s aides and family service workers. The program’s family service workers meet with individual families at their houses and find out what their greatest needs are — housing, healthcare, food assistance — and then provide the community resource information they need.
“It became apparent to us in negotiations that the folks who are proposing these reductions don’t know what these family service workers do when the students aren’t there,” Harvey said.
The district will continue negotiations with the school employees’ union on how the reductions will be enacted.
“The program is too important to risk,” Lima said. “(Head Start) is a great program and helps prepare less advantaged kids for kindergarten.”
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