National Briefs / Head Start cuts revealed

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WASHINGTON -- Head Start programs across the country eliminated services for 57,000 children in the coming school year to balance budgets diminished by the federal sequester, cutting 1.3 million days from Head Start center calendars and laying off or reducing pay for more than 18,000 employees, according to federal government data scheduled for release today.

The latest numbers, based on the results of "reduction plans" Head Start grantees submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services, fall short of earlier predictions by the Obama administration that 70,000 children would lose access to preschool because of the mandatory 5 percent cuts. But the cuts will still affect tens of thousands of poor families across the country who rely on Head Start for early learning programs, day care and a network of social services and medical care.

The initial administration projection was based on "a worst-case scenario" in which all reductions would focus on children's access to Head Start, said a senior administration official who was unauthorized to publicly discuss the matter, because the information had not yet been released. In reality, grantees had some flexibility in how they cut their budgets as long as they maintained quality and prioritized children's health and safety.

Some Head Start centers focused on cutting administrative and support services, such as transportation. Others chose to shorten the school year or the school day.

Mayoral recall campaign

SAN DIEGO -- A campaign to oust embattled San Diego Mayor Bob Filner began Sunday, as volunteers armed with clipboards and petitions fanned out to collect thousands of signatures needed to authorize a recall election.

More than a dozen women have publicly accused Mr. Filner, a Democrat, of making inappropriate statements or sexual advances. The 70-year-old former congressman has resisted numerous calls to resign. He is set to return to work this week after undergoing behavior therapy.

More fire crews arrive

BOISE, Idaho -- Fire managers expressed optimism Sunday in their battle against a wildfire that has scorched nearly 160 square miles and forced the evacuation of 2,300 homes near the central Idaho resort communities of Ketchum and Sun Valley.

Officials said the blaze had grown by only about 12 square miles because of cloud cover the day before and the arrival of additional crews and equipment. Many firefighters worked Sunday to create protective firebreaks, or gaps in vegetation.

More than 1,200 people and 19 aircraft were battling the lightning-caused Beaver Creek Fire, which started Aug. 7 and was 9 percent contained. Nearly 90 fire engines also were in the region, many protecting homes in the affluent area where celebrities own pricey getaways.

Atlanta cheating scandal

ATLANTA -- Jury selection begins today for the first trial involving a defendant charged in the Atlanta Public Schools test-cheating scandal.

Former regional superintendent Tamara Cotman faces a charge of trying to influence a witness, and lawyers following the prosecution predict the trial's outcome will have an impact on how the Fulton County district attorney's office and the other APS defendants decide to resolve their cases.

Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter has expressed concern about being able to find a fair and impartial jury, given the widespread publicity of the case. He has called in 250 county residents for jury selection.

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