Government shutdown interrupts Head Start funding

Local Head Start schools to close on Oct. 11

Author: Kumasi Aaron, Reporter, weekend anchor, kaaron@wjxt.com
Published On: Oct 03 2013 04:37:48 PM EDT   Updated On: Oct 03 2013 08:24:47 PM EDT
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Amid the federal government shutdown, seven agencies that run Head Start and Early Head Start programs in Florida don't have funding, including one in Jacksonville.

Rondreka Bronner says it's hard enough taking care of her 1-year-old daughter by herself.

Without funding from WIC, which provides healthy food for women and children, she says it'd be even harder.

"It provides everything, everything that she mostly eats, the cereal that they provide for her, the milk, the rice cakes, all that stuff she eats," Bronner said.

WIC is just one of the things Bronner depends on now in jeopardy due to the government shutdown.

Duval County Early Learning Coalition officials say the program is running as normal right now. Bronner is not only concerned about feeding her daughter, but educating her, too.

"It goes one way. She will no longer have funding for school because that's even much harder, because now I don't have like day care for her while I work if I was decided to work," Bronner said.

Bronner's daughter goes to the Early Head Start program run by Episcopal Children Services of Jacksonville. It's funded by a federal grant, which ran out this month and can't be renewed because the government is shut down.

Instead of closing its doors, the organization is using $250,000 of its own money to keep the centers open for two weeks.

"It's a very painful decision, our board hates it," Connie Stophel said. "We wish we could just fund it indefinitely. This is to allow our parents to find other sources of care and safe care so that tier children will be well taken care of once we do have to close our doors."

That means on Oct. 11, 390 Head Start students with the North Florida Early Learning Coalition in Nassau, Baker, Clay Bradford and Union counties, and 244 Early Head Start students in Duval, Clay and Baker counties won't have class anymore. It also means about 150 staff members will have to stop working.

And for Bronner, it means another worry for her child.

"It's like, who's going to watch her now during those hours, and it just puts more stress on me," she said.