BOISE -- Federal budget cuts are causing big concerns for at least one Treasure Valley Head Start program.
Friends of Children and Families runs a federally-funded Head Start program in Boise. Administrators say they recently found they'll have to decrease enrollment and cut classroom time because of cuts at the federal level.
FCOF's Head Start director tells us the program will cut four class days to save money in 2013. They'll also be forced to decrease enrollment starting next fall. Both staff and parents say it doesn't seem fair to take the funding from the kids in our area who may need it most.
More than 500 kids from low-income families use FCOF's Head Start program for early education.
Student Liam Onishi is 5-years-old and is enrolled in the program. He recently moved from Japan. Onishi's mother tells us it's been wonderful to watch him develop over the last year.
"When he started Head Start, his language knowledge was about a year behind other kids, so that was another huge thing, it got him speaking more and not being so shy," says Damahr Onishi.
Onishi tells us she can't believe the federally funded program is now facing cuts.
PROGRAM FACES SIGNIFICANT CUTS
"Frustration, disappointment -- it just seems like they always take money away from the programs that need it the most," Onishi said.
FCOF's Executive Director Liz Dilley tells us the organization got word of the federal cuts on March 1. She says the organization stands to lose more than 5 percent of their budget, along with other organizations across the country.
"Every program in the nation is experiencing the same thing we are with having to figure out how we can live without that much money in our budget," Dilley said. "It's not easy; it's not fun; but we also hold out hope that congress will make other decisions in the future that will impact us in a positive way."
Dilley says the cuts will prevent 20 children from attending Head Start classes next fall and 4 from attending the early Head Start program.
She says the impact will be negative for the whole community.
"For low income families who wouldn't otherwise have an opportunity to have a preschool experience, it gives what its name says a head start for those children before they enter kindergarten" Dilley said.
Head Start Board Member Chase Hewes said the cuts will have a ripple affect on the community.
"The community is being under served to begin with, so when you impact it with 20 less opportunities you just aggravate the entire situation," Hewes told KTVB.
ASKING LAWMAKERS FOR CHANGE
Damahr Onishi says she can't imagine where her son Liam would be without Head Start.
"I hope that congress would rethink what they've done, and maybe be more in touch with the common person," Onishi said.
Dilley says what makes Head Start so successful is the emphasis on parents as teachers.
She says without a preschool program in Idaho, the state is already under serving the community, and says she's disappointed FCOF will have to drop enrollment.
Adding insult to injury, Dilley said her program received word of the cuts just days after receiving a national award. Idaho's Head Start was given the National Leadership Award for Effective Family Engagement.