COLUMBIA, Mo. - A Mid-Missouri early childhood education program is being cut due to massive federal budget cuts.
Central Missouri Community Action is making extreme changes to its Head Start program since it will lose nearly $300,00 due to the federal sequestration.
CMCA leaders told ABC 17 News that they will keep all of the children in the program now, but will have to eliminate 105 slots next year.
The CMCA Board of Directors will also eliminate 20 employees, change some centers to half days and modify staffing levels to make up for the loss of funding.
The Head Start program is meant to ensure children from financially-strapped families are ready for kindergarten
Leaders are now concerned about what the budget reductions will mean for children and their future education.
"Without assistance programs like Head Start, I do worry that those programs aren't going to be ready for school," Darin Preis with the Central Missouri Community Action said. "Kids aren't going to be successful and ultimately aren't going to graduate high school."
The CMCA said they had to look at poverty and unemployment levels along with if there were any other early education options available when assessing program cuts. Therefore, most of the cuts are coming to Columbia centers instead of rural areas.
Officials say there are no plans to close any Head Start centers.
School leaders are worried about what the drastic cuts could mean to some children.
"Part of what's concerning is the population that Head Start provides support for is a population that really does need to have access to early childhood education," said Columbia Public Schools spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark.
CMCA officials said despite high poverty levels, there is very little they can do.
"That number's gone up over the last ten years, it hasn't gone down and it just seems like the wrong time to cut programs and services that are designed to help those people in poverty," Preis said.
Officials are also looking to make changes to Early Head Start. They are proposing to change it from a center-based program to an in-home program.