Dayton, Ohio Shuts Down Head Start Preschool Program

The state is eliminating its Head Start program to focus on Title I-funded preschools.

Dayton Public Schools is shuttering its Head Start program and laying off 33 teachers, the Dayton Daily News reports. The 300 kids who are currently participating in the program will either be transitioning to kindergarten, attending another local Head Start school, or enrolling in a Dayton public preschool.

According to a national report released last week, Ohio has fallen behind other states in its accommodation of at-risk preschoolers. The study, which was conducted by the National Institute for Early Education Research, says that no other state has so drastically cut funding for preschools programs. Steve Barnett, author of the study, said:

“Ohio is imploding when it comes to early childhood education. It’s the result of a dramatic decrease in funding and a dramatic decrease in standards.”

He particularly criticized the 28-pupil maximum class size in Ohio’s preschools, calling it “warehousing children.”

Karen Lombard, the director of early childhood education for DPS, said that closing Head Start is part of a plan by the district to open two preschools in every building: one serving regular students and one dedicated to special-needs children. She explained that the district didn’t have space to accommodate both regular preschools and the Head Start classes, so it chose to concentrate on only one type:

“We have more preschool programs than we have space, so we made the decision to go with a Title I preschool in every building,”

Barbara Haxton, executive director of Ohio Head Start, said that the results of the NIEER study, which ranked the state 36th among 40 with Head Start programs, didn’t surprise her. She pointed the finger at the state, which stopped funding the program in 2009:

“At one point in time we were serving almost all of the eligible 4-year-olds in Ohio. We practically had to go looking for kids. Now, we serve about 49 percent of eligible students. The focus is mainly on the neediest children, but the lower middle class isn’t being served.”

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May 5th, 2011

Staff Reporter

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