More than 30 people will lose their jobs because of the decision by JCPS to relinquish its $15 million federal Head Start grant, according to JCPS contractors.

Three partners are contracted to work with the district’s Head Start and Early Head Start childhood programs, most providing comprehensive services to help families outside of the classroom. Without the Head Start grant, most will no longer work with the district, causing layoffs, contractors said.

Inside the classroom, no teachers or instructional assistants will be laid off, a JCPS spokeswoman told Insider.

Last week, the Jefferson County Board of Education unanimously voted to give up the $15 million grant, opting to spend $8 million from its general fund to move the students into the district’s early childhood program.

Days later, the Administration for Children and Families announced that JCPS had failed to protect children from abuse and neglect in the program, despite months of updating policies and working on a corrective action plan to change the culture.

The district had been told that even one more accusation could jeopardize the grant. There were two new allegations in the two weeks leading up to the decision, according to records obtained by Insider. 

One contractor, Shine Early Learning, said it works with Head Start grantees across the county to help with comprehensive services. For the JCPS program, Shine helped parents “achieve their goals” and helped children get medical screenings and health care for the past four years, the company told Insider.

Victor Ortiz

“These comprehensive services (and the belief that early childhood education should be holistic, not just educational, and two generational) are specific to the vision of the Head Start program, which is why Shine Early Learning staff, who are exclusively dedicated to serving families and addressing health needs, will no longer be needed,” Shine’s senior vice president Victor Ortiz told Insider in an email.

Around 35 Shine employees will be laid off when the JCPS grant ends on June 30, Ortiz said. The program “immediately discussed” job search plans for affected employees, including internal and external job opportunities.

JCPS said it had two other contractors tied to Head Start: A public-private partnership with Crocus Academy and a mental health consultation contract with Andy Frey at the Kent School of Social Work. Frey’s contract will be continued and fully funded by JCPS next year, but Crocus Academy’s contract will be terminated, a JCPS spokeswoman told Insider.

The federal program may have a re-competition process to continue a Head Start program in Louisville using the relinquished funds, Ortiz told Insider. Administration for Children and Families officials didn’t immediately return requests for comment regarding a potential re-competition process, but at least one area Head Start grantee is interested in potentially grabbing the relinquished funds if they become available, according to WDRB.

“I’m sad to have it end,” Crocus Academy’s owner, Brenda Hagan, said in an email to Insider. “I hope to continue if another entity takes it over.” Hagan did not comment on potential layoffs.

Shine said they “will evaluate what role we can play in the future Head Start program” when that happens, adding that it hopes many of the laid off employees will be able to work with them again.

“Our team is hopeful that when the Head Start program is reconstituted, we will have the opportunity to continue to support the efforts we have begun to close the achievement gap in Jefferson County,” Ortiz said.

A community member spoke against giving up the grant at the JCBE meeting before the vote, saying losing the grant would mean losing comprehensive services that families in the program rely on.

“There is no clear-cut plan for these families,” the member, Sammy Jones, said. Later, board Vice Chair Lisa Willner said those services would still be available outside of the Head Start program.

Grant relinquishment is rare in the Head Start program. Before JCPS, only three grantees voluntarily gave up their grants in the past five years, with only one of those instances being tied to abuse allegations, according to data federal officials gave to Insider. 

Ortiz said that Shine wasn’t involved in the stream of abuse allegations in JCPS’ program, which has caused scrutiny since October 2017. 

“We believe that JCPS has been sincere in its commitment to meeting the needs of families in the Head Start program, including their children’s health needs,” Ortiz said. “We are proud of the progress parents have made in the program and hope the new Head Start program will continue to build on their successes and the systems we have built.”

Olivia Krauth

Olivia Krauth

Krauth reports on education in Louisville, including JCPS, the University of Louisville and state policy.Before joining Insider Louisville, she covered technology and business as a reporter at TechRepublic. She also spent time on the data team at the Austin American-Statesman in Texas as a Dow Jones intern.Krauth graduated from UofL, where she was an award-winning editor of The Louisville Cardinal and obtained a degree in investigative journalism with a minor in Russian studies.Email Olivia at [email protected]com.