Head Start programs will eliminate services for 57,265 children in the coming school year thanks to sequestration’s automatic, across-the-board spending cuts, according to new government data collected from individual programs. California, Texas, and New York will cut the largest number of spots, at 5,611, 4,410, and 3,847, respectively. Nineteen states and Puerto Rico will cut off services to more than 1,000 children.
The cuts also mean the reduction of 1.3 million calendar days at centers across the country. About 18,000 hours will be cut by centers that are dealing with reduced funding by starting days later or ending earlier. Some programs are also eliminating bus services, and children whose parents don’t have reliable transportation may not be able to attend.
The cuts will also impact Head Start staff. More than 18,000 employees will experience lay offs or reduced pay.
Children have already been kicked out of the preschool program thanks to sequestration, according to reports across the country. The new data confirms that more children will experience the same fate.
Preschool programs aren’t just about keeping kids busy, but have big benefits in the long run. Children who attend stand to see $11 in economic benefits over their lifetimes for every dollar spent thanks to effects such as a higher likelihood of staying in school, going to college, and avoiding teen pregnancy and crime. The economy in general also benefits, seeing $7 in savings for every dollar spent and an increase in human capital and economic output.
Parents also see a big impact. Some parents who previously relied on Head Start for their children report having to leave their jobs now that they don’t have a reliable place to send their kids while they go to work.
Ending sequestration’s automatic cuts wouldn’t just help the children and families being denied Head Start. It would restore services to domestic violence victims, the home-bound elderly, those who need housing assistance, and others. And it would also boost the economy in general, potentially increasing GDP by 1.2 percent and adding 1.6 million jobs.