Federal Cuts Challenge Head Start Programs in Sioux City

(SIOUX CITY, IA) - Preschool teachers scramble to avoid cutting services in Sioux City. The first round of automatic federal budget cuts includes the "Head Start" program.

Head Start already has a big waiting list to get kids into the program. The program's director said she will do everything she can to keep Head Start at its fullest potential.

Shea Conway is one of 354 children Head Start serves in its 20 Sioux City classrooms where little tikes can expand their imaginations before they step foot into kindergarten.

"I usually work during the day so it helps out a lot," said Head Start parent, Amber Wilcox. "He's not just sitting at some babysitter's house in front of the TV all day. He's actually in school doing stuff," she said about her son.

Come September 30, Head Start's budget will be slashed by $158,000. It's a scary thought for parents and staff.

"Tell me how much this program means to you and your family?" asked Siouxland News' Olivia Wilmsen. "A lot, a lot," said Sarah Hammerstrom with tears in her eyes.

"It upsets me a little bit because I kind of depend on it right now," said Wilcox.

"It's just a lot of ifs. Oh well, she's new so we can't have you or we lost a teacher. We lost all this money for them to do extracurricular activities," said Hammerstrom.

"Woodbury County has a large portion of economically disadvantaged or poor children. And so we hate to see children not being served," said Joanie O'Connor, Head Start Director in Sioux City.

The program could cut back to a shorter day or hold classes on fewer days each year.

"I have another daughter that's actually starting school this fall, that's going to be in Head Start. And that'd be kind of a shame that she wouldn't be able to go because of that cut."

"The only way you can really save a significant amount of money, which $158,000 is a significant amount of money, is through staff and salaries and you don't want to do that," said O'Connor.

O'Connor said her staff is still crunching numbers to figure out how they will deal with the budget cuts.