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Head Start Programs Need State Budget Passed

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COOLBAUGH TOWNSHIP -- The state budget is now more than a month late. As government leaders work to battle out the details, teachers at local Head Start programs in the Poconos are starting to worry about what this could mean for hundreds of kids.

The Head Start program in Monroe County currently runs five classroom programs, but they are looking to add new classrooms with new funding this year. If there’s no budget that just won’t happen and about 150 kids will be forced to wait.

These 4 and 5 year olds are building an educational foundation before kindergarten even starts. It’s all thanks to Clear Run Elementary’s Head Start program near Tobyhanna.

"We're getting them so ready for kindergarten. They understand we go to school, we do work, we play, we go home. We get them into a routine,” said lead teacher Kelly Lehmann.

It’s all about learning the basics here in the kindergarten readiness program.

Jazabell Vidal is five years old and says she learned, "my numbers and my ABCs.”

Each student now knows what’s expected from them in school.

"Sit in a straight line, and we learned about being good and quiet in circle,” said 4-year-old Nickolas Guilherme-Saurez.

Many of these kids will be attending Clear Run Elementary in the fall, making the transition even easier.

"Certainly everybody, parents included, are filled with that anxiety, and these children have the opportunity to know what to expect,” said Clear Run Elementary Principal Heidi Donohue.

Without a new budget, students who are supposed to be learning their ABCs and 123s in Head Start programs in Monroe County will all be put on hold. Head Start applied to open nine new programs with new state money, but without a budget, that just won’t happen.

"They don't open up there are teachers that won't have jobs there are students that don't have a classroom and that are going to continue to be on a waiting list for a while,” said Lehman.

Governor Wolf worked on spreading his budget message in the Poconos at East Stroudsburg Elementary on Thursday, but he couldn’t tell us how soon a new spending plan may be passed.

“I’m working as hard as I possibly can and as soon as we have a good budget, I will sign it,” said Governor Wolf.

The five classrooms that Monroe County Head Start currently runs will be funded by a credit line at a local bank if the budget doesn’t pass. Head Start officials say that’s a risk they are willing to take to keep kids in school.

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