The Osage Nation said it will no longer sponsor Head Start programs at any of its four locations.
The nation declined to give specifics on how funding changes may have led to its decision, but hundreds of families are impacted.
Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear declined to interview on camera with News On 6, calling the changes a “delicate situation.”
Standing Bear said that 230 children are in Osage Nation’s Head Start programs in Pawhuska, Skiatook, Hominy and Fairfax.
The tribal nation sent letters to parents last week, notifying them of the closures.
The nation said all 57 Osage children will have the option to attend its early learning academies and all 19 employees will be offered other jobs.
“We had a meeting actually this morning and when they had offered the position, I was like, I’ve got to look out for my children and do what’s best for me and my kids,” said Rose Lieb, a cook at the Pawhuska Head Start location for almost four years.
Lieb said she is thankful for another job but doesn’t know what to do with her three-year-old son, who’s in Head Start.
“It’s a great loss for a lot of people, not only me and the coworkers but all the families that were going to be attending the Head Start,” said Lieb.
Osage Nation Congressman Eli Potts, who is chairman of the education committee, said he sent a letter to tribal leaders, sharing concerns.
“I think that we need to continue operating, specifically because the funding is still there,” said Potts. “It’s not a shortage of funding issue. It’s a choice we’re making at this point.”
Potts said the program has been successful for more than 40 years and he’s working on legislation in the fall to help with funding.
“What we’ll be doing is appropriating money for the match to receive the federal grant,” explained Potts. “My understanding is that deadline is August 1st, so we still have time to submit that application if there’s enough support in our communities to keep Head Start open.”
Potts said he recommends those concerned with the future of Head Start to contact their representatives.
Standing Bear said tribal leaders should know more about how Head Start will be impacted by the end of next week.