Head Start Closures Will 'Leave Kids Behind'

Jordan McClain is the mother of three children -- four-year-old twins Ireland and Sutton and two-year-old Ridge.

Mcclain's twins have been attending the head start program in Baird for the past two years and are ready to head to kindergarten this fall. 

"It just really, really prepares them for what they'll get into when they go to what they call 'big school.'"

But her son won't be so lucky.

Thanks to budget cuts stemming from the sequester, it's the last time kids in both Baird and Ranger will be a part of this early childhood education program -- one many agree is vital for their futures.

"You've got some kids coming into kindergarten that don't know their ABCs or can't count to ten and Head Start does that for them," McClain said.

Sheila Payne, Director of the Coleman-based Central Texas Opportunities, which oversees the Head Start programs for several counties in the Big Country, calls the closures heartbreaking.

"That's what Head Start is about, giving those poverty children a head start who do not quite have education within their home," Payne said.

The Baird Independent School District does not have a Pre-K, so for many parents, this head start program is the only option, providing a mix of convenience, childcare and education.

"I think we've been looked at as a childcare system and Head Start is not a childcare system," Payne said. "We're a school for the families and the children also."

So when the doors in Baird and Ranger close for good on May 30th, dozens of families like the McClains will be forced to find another way to get their children adequately prepared.

"So in those two communities, children will be left behind. And what is Texas always saying? 'No child left behind.' But that's what they did when they did this," Payne said.

According to Payne, forty families will be affected by the closures and nine staffers will also lose their jobs.

She said the decision on which ones to close was made using data, not performance.

Head Start programs run by Central Texas Opportunities in Brown, Coleman, Comanche, Eastland and other Big Country counties will remain open.

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