By Jim Hagerty
CITY HALL — Several Rockford Head Start workers were on hand Monday as aldermen voted 8-0 to apply for federal funding to continue the program.
But the workers do not support everything the city is proposing for Head Start moving forward.
More than 40 workers could be laid off under the plan. They could be rehired though, although not as employees. They’d be outsourced to Rockford Public School District 205, the YMCA or other partners in a new collaboration.
“What makes our programs special are the people who work with parents and children every single day,” Head Start teacher Jacalyn Banks said, referring to her coworkers. “It is because of our experience and years we have invested into the city that I would ask you not to outsource us. Please allow us to continue being City of Rockford employees, as we will continue to provide outstanding service for the children and families of Rockford.”
Workers fear that outsourcing will come with pay decreases and lost benefits. At the same time, the city aims to increase the number of full-day children and decrease those in the half-day program. The goal is to better allocate the $31 million in funding to accommodate more children from ages 0 to 3.
“The vast majority of the children served by Head Start locally live within the boundaries of the Rockford public school district due to poverty demographics in Winnebago County and Rockford,” City of Rockford Human Services Director George Davis said.
Those demographics indicate that the district and other partners would help the city best serve children in the program. The plan calls for 50 additional full-day children and 70 more served by Early Head Start. Part-day preschool would be reduced by 100 children.
There are currently 80 Head Start workers employed by the city. That includes seven bus drivers who’ll be outsourced next year.
Exactly how the new program will work has not been determined. The city must clear hurdles through collective bargaining, which will determine a final number of outsourced workers.
Starting pay for the city’s Head Start employees is $19.73 per hour.
Aldermen Frank Beach, Joe Chiarelli, Kevin Frost, Natavius Ervins, Karen Hoffman, Ann Thompson-Kelly, Chad Tuneberg, and Tuffy Quinonez voted yes. Bill Rose and Jonathan Logemann abstained from Monday’s vote because they are RPS 205 teachers. Venita Hervey, Tim Durkee, John Beck and Linda McNeely were absent. R.