Federal Budget Cuts Threaten Dallas School Program

Parents say program with a funny name has serious benefits

More than half the money Dallas schools spend on an early childhood education program called HIPPY is under the ax for possible federal budget cuts.

HIPPY stands for Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters.

Parent Vanessa Bahena participated in HIPPY during the last school year with her 4-year-old son, Adrian.

"It's wonderful, it's great," she said. "It would be horrible taking this education from the children."

The program sends instructors to parents' homes for an hour each week to teach the adults how to teach their preschoolers the skills they need to succeed in elementary school.

The program supplied Bahena with all the books and instructional materials, along with training on how to use them.

"I also like it because it's a one-on-one with your son," she said. "You are the teacher. You are the parent. It's a special bonding that you get with him because only you and he are doing this program."

The Dallas Independent School District spent $2.55 million on the program for staff and supplies to reach 1,150 children. The district supplied $1 million of its own money and received $1.2 million in federal Title 1 money and $355,000 from the U.S. Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV).

The MIECHV money expires in September without immediate action from Congress, and the Title 1 money could be reduced in federal budget debates underway now in Washington.

Hundreds of organizations are lobbying to save the programs this week. They declared Wednesday, July 12, a Home Visiting Day of Action.

Advocates argue HIPPY has improved school readiness, achievement, attendance and behavior.

Dallas school officials report just 38 percent of preschoolers arrive prepared for elementary school learning.

The Dallas ISD has made expansion of early childhood education a priority to improve the odds of success for students later in life.

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