By Jeanne Sager
MONTICELLO May 2, 2006 Even Start is getting the jumpstart it needs to keep going.
The program for low-income families with children under age 8 has been scrabbling for funding since the federal government cut 60 percent out of the budget that funds Even Start programs.
The feds left it up to the states to fill the gap, but New York State decided to end programs that are in the fourth year of a four-year funding cycle.
That included two programs in Sullivan County programs that needed at least $200,000 to continue barebones until theyre allowed to reapply next year.
An announcement made yesterday by Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther brought good news to the folks at Sullivan County BOCES, the Recovery Center and the Sullivan County Child Care Council, who partner to keep the two programs going.
Gunther has secured $200,000 in state funding for the programs to keep going with center-based learning at BOCES adult education center on St. John Street in Monticello and a few home visits.
Mrs. Gunther deserves a whole lot of credit on this one, said BOCES Superintendent Dr. Martin Handler. Without her coming through, this program doesnt run.
She put on a full court press to try to get us the money, he continued. This means that at least the basic Even Start program although not the full Even Start program will be able to operate in the coming school year.
This means those young people and their parents will be getting the services they so desperately need, Handler said.
Those services include transportation to the St. John Street Education Center and childcare for parents while they take parenting classes and study for their GED.
They include intervention services for the children that Even Start officials estimate save school districts thousands of dollars by preventing a need for special education once the children reach school age.
They also include classes that help the parents help their children how to help with homework and how to get involved with the schools.
Even Start educators have also traditionally made home visits something that had to be done in order to be eligible for the federal funding.
Sullivans Even Start officials have opted to continue doing so even without that federal funding so they can show that theyve continued to operate as an Even Start when applying for funding.
According to Handler, Congressman Maurice Hincheys office is working to see that the federal funds are reinstated in the 2007-08 budget.
Meanwhile, he gives full credit to Gunther.
Gunthers legislative aide, Minnette Kramer, brought Sullivans Even Start issue to her boss attention.
"When I left the meeting, I just knew that this was something that Assemblywoman Gunther would want to look into," stated Kramer.
"Even Start helps our most vulnerable families succeed through educational programs and skill development," Gunther said. "Locally, the BOCES program has helped hundreds of families and children learn and thrive.
It's a critically important program that must be adequately funded. By making sure Even Start can provide services for another year, we're not only enriching the lives of countless individuals and families, we're sending a positive message, backed by positive actions, to every member of our community."