The early childhood education program Head Start provides educational opportunities specifically to low-income kids. But 70,000 of those students will lose the opportunity to be in the program as a result of the drastic reductions in funding triggered by sequestration.
Reports are beginning to roll in about how children will bear the brunt of Congressional inaction. In several states, programs have to decide where they will make the cuts. In some cases, that means picking which students will be kept in the program, and which will be forced to leave:
INDIANA: “At least two Indiana Head Start programs have resorted to a random drawing to determine which three-dozen preschool students will be removed from the education program for low-income families, a move officials said was necessary to limit the impact of mandatory across-the-board federal spending cuts. [Programs] in Columbus and Franklin are losing two classrooms, meaning 36 children won’t be able to return after Friday. Last week, a lottery drawing determined which children would remain in the Columbus program, and Franklin had scheduled its lottery for Tuesday night.” [Indiana Journal Gazette, March 13, 2013.]
TENNESSEE: “A letter went out recently to parents and guardians with children in the program stating that the cuts have affected the Head Start program in several ways. One, and perhaps the move that hurts more families than any, is that all bus transportation will discontinue on March 18. The letter was sent out shortly after the sequestration took place on March 1 to give the parents a couple of weeks to try to find alternate means of transportation. According to the letter, ‘Every effort will be made to reinstate transportation services starting in August.’” [Clairebornprogress.net, March 13,2012]
WASHINGTON: ‘We’ll [lose] money for the child care food program. And there may be dollars lost from our partnership with the Spokane School District for serving kids with disabilities,’ said [The Director of Program Services, David Colburn] Colburn.[...] Spokane Head Start currently serves 900 families and there are a thousand more on the waiting list. Cutting kids already in the program is considered a last resort but leaders say it’s simply unavoidable.” [KREM.com, March 1, 2013.]
PENNSYLVANIA: Jody Thomas, a local Pennsylvania Head Start Director, “said, the centers provide lunch and snacks to the children, and with a funding cut, Head Start would not be buying as much food from grocery stores in the area, or as much cleaning or other supplies. Less fuel also could be purchased for Headstart’s buses, with the cuts, she noted.[...] At the Troy Head Start, Laura Steele, a teacher for the Troy 1 Head Start, said that she was concerned about the cuts.[...] ‘I am afraid we won’t be able to service as many children as we do now,’ she said. ‘We are going to try our best to keep the high-quality programs we have.’” [Pennsylvania Daily Review, March 14, 2013.]
FLORIDA: “Commissioners are expected to discuss the shortfall at a meeting April 2, but administrators have tentatively proposed a series of services that could be eliminated to help bridge the financial gap.[..,] Under the proposal, buses that take children to and from the county’s Head Start centers would be eliminated. Roughly 400 of the 2,296 children enrolled in the county’s Head Start program rely on the buses to get to the centers, Van Arnam said. The cut would result in the elimination of 14 jobs.” [Palm Beach Post, March 13, 2013.]
Preschool is not an extracurricular activity for kids. It’s been proven to help kids learn to socialize and become well-adjusted citizens. A study in California found that “our society receives $9 in benefits for every $1 invested in Head Start children.” A Center for American Progress report found that children who don’t receive early childhood education are 40 percent more likely to become a parent as a teenager, 25 percent more likely to drop out of school, and 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime.