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Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • Bright Beginnings forced to cut enrollment, services

  • Bright Beginnings, Ford County’s only publicly-funded early childhood development center, has had to pare-back its enrollment, reduce the size of its staff, and decrease the number of services it offers, due to the federal budget cuts, known as sequestration.During the 2013-14 school year, Bright Beginnings will...
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  • Bright Beginnings, Ford County’s only publicly-funded early childhood development center, has had to pare-back its enrollment, reduce the size of its staff, and decrease the number of services it offers, due to the federal budget cuts, known as sequestration.
    During the 2013-14 school year, Bright Beginnings will have approximately 420 children enrolled in the preschool program; 220 of those students are Head Start, according to Tami Knedler, the principal of the school.  That number reflects a 20-slot decrease from last year.
    In addition to the Head Start students, the program serves prenatal to 3-year-old children who come from 52 different families, Knedler said.
    The Head Start enrollment decrease would have been larger had the school not decided to use its funds differently than it has in previous years.
    “The total number of students served will not see significant change from last year because we are utilizing grant funding in a different way for the 2013 to 2014 school year,” Knedler said.
    According to Knedler, the Head Start program will operate with 5.6 percent less federal grant money than it had last year.
    The state of Kansas also provides funding for Bright Beginnings through a number of different grants.  The increase or decrease in funding varied for each grant, she said.
    Grant money from the federal government and from the state government is the only source of funding that the program has.  “The grants that we receive are separate from other district funding,” Knedler explained.
    Bright Beginnings has also had to make adjustments to the size of its teaching corps and to the services the program offers.
    “We have had some staff reduction, program service changes, a two-year-shift from four all-day-classrooms to all half-day sessions…,” Knedler said.
    It is not yet clear if grant funding from the federal and state governments will increase, decrease, or remain flat, in the years to come.  “Future cuts are possible. Our funding is totally dependent upon the federal and state levels of funding,” the principal said.
    It is necessary for funding to increase each year in order for the school to pay its operating costs and to hire teachers who have the required qualifications and credentials.  “With increased cost and staff qualifications, even stagnant funding is a reduction,” Knedler said.
    The impact of decreased funding
    The young learners enrolled in Bright Beginnings and the students’ families benefit greatly from the program, according to Knedler.
    Each year, more than 300 former Bright Beginnings students enter the area’s elementary schools, she said.  By the time they enter kindergarten, the young learners will have received at least one-year of “developmentally appropriate” instruction from qualified teachers and support staff members.
    Page 2 of 2 - The students also will have learned how to interact with other children and they will have become familiar with what is expected of them in a learning environment, Knedler said.
    The parents of Bright Beginnings students are made aware of the importance of taking an active role in their child’s learning experience, Knedler r said.
    Parents learn about attendance expectations, the school routine, and the importance of communication with their child’s teachers.  They are also offered services such as parenting classes, adult-learning classes, access to community programs, and financial planning education.
    The instruction that the students receive and the services that are rendered to the parents help them to be ready for elementary school.  “All of this helps the students and parents with a smooth transition into the elementary schools.”
    Statistics have shown that Bright Beginnings students have reaped long-term benefits from the program.  According to Knedler, 96 percent of Bright Beginnings students from the 2006 to 2007 class tested at grade-level or above in on their fourth-grade reading assessments.  94 percent tested at grade-level or above on the fourth-grade math assessment.
    Due to the cuts in funding, fewer students and their families will be able to experience the benefits of early childhood education.
    “Early childhood education is vital to the success of our children,” Knedler said.  “The impact [of the cuts] is significant.”

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