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Feds cut off two Seattle-based Head Start programs

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Two Seattle-based Head Start providers are losing their funding, as part of a wider crackdown within the federal preschool program.

Other agencies will take over the contracts, so the move won’t reduce the number of early education slots available to low-income kids in Seattle. But to the providers who are being cut off, it’s devastating.

“It’s really heartbreaking to see a 27-year-old program all of a sudden disappear,” said Kelvin Frank, executive director of United Indians for All Tribes.

The group’s Head Start program has roots in the 1970 Indian takeover of a decommissioned Army fort in what is now Seattle’s Discovery Park, and the community that emerged from it. Frank says the program educated Indian children based on their own traditions.

Frank said the feds didn’t give him any details, but an earlier audit had outlined instability and dysfunction in the organization’s leadership. Frank said he believes those problems have since been addressed.

First A-M-E Church in Seattle’s Central District also lost its contract. Staffers there didn’t return calls for comment.

The contracts are being offered instead to Children’s Home Society of Washington and Neighborhood House. Another Washington program under threat of losing its funding, Bellingham-based Opportunity Council, will keep its contract.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.