With more than 800 children on the waiting list for pre-kindergarten services, Fairfax County’s School Board and Board of Supervisors are committed to formulating a plan to solve the problem, they said Tuesday.
Head Start provides early education and pre-kindergarten classes to kids from low income families, better preparing them to enter Fairfax County Public Schools.
The program is funded by a mix of federal, state and county sources, but sequestration has the Board of Supervisors on edge and the Fiscal Year 2014 budget doesn’t include any funding for expansion of the program.
For this reason, Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) has formally requested the two Boards sit down and find a solution.
“High quality early education that prepares all children for kindergarten is a wise investment for the county,” reads Hudgins’ resolution.
And she wants every child to have the option of early education services by 2018.
“If you think about it, a child born today will have only a few years to get ready for kindergarten,” she said. “We have a lot of information that tells us that the right direction is early education.”
Hudgins wants the two boards to specifically discuss four points:
- Setting a goal for every preschool-aged student in the county to have immediate access to a kindergarten readiness program by 2018;
- Identify money in the both the county and schools budgets for facilities and programs that will be able to accommodate more kids and plan for growth in years to come;
- Improve pay equity issues between county, schools and private Head Start providers; and
- Look at efficiency models in other localities’ Head Start programs.
When Hudgins previewed the resolution last week, School Board Member Pat Hynes said both Boards were behind the idea of a solution but needed a plan.
No timeline was immediately available, but Supervisor Jeff McKay wanted to see action as soon as possible.
“I’m hoping it’s not misconstrued that we have until 2018 to address this,” he said. “I think we immediately need to be looking at creative ways to deal with the current waiting list.
“We’re not waiting until 2018 to address – we’re doing things in the meantime with this overall larger goal that everyone can have access. “