Head Start numbers are down in the Upper Cumberland with a new school year more than one month old.
LBJ&C Head Start Director Penny Meadows said 880 students are enrolled in Head Start centers across the Upper Cumberland, and she has some on a waiting list. Meadows said the interest in Head Start is down. At the same time, the federal government also conduced a new community assessment that showed fewer children qualified.
“A lot of people can go to McDonald’s and get a full time job and end up being too high for the income criteria,” Meadows said. “The income criteria for Head Start is set by the federal government, it is set by Congress, and the Senate, and those numbers hasn’t increased as quickly as the inflation has in the area.”
The new assessment changed the number of allowed students changed from 1,307 to 880. Meadows said Pre-K taking younger students also contributed to numbers going down. Meadows said people are also waiting later to have children and this also impacts eligibility.
“By the time they do have children, they may have established jobs, and so they may not meeting the income criteria,” Meadows said.
Meadows said the staff is doing all it can to raise Head Start numbers, including going door-to-door. She said she utilizes social media, radio, and community events to try to get kids signed up for Head Start. She said a plus to head start is the parents role in the program.
“Parents love that they can come in and be there any time they want,” Meadows said. “They don’t have that option when their children go to public school, so they love that they can come in and volunteer and be right in there. And we teach them things that might even help them at home.”