Head Start among programs facing sequester cuts

Posted at: 02/25/2013 4:41 PM
Updated at: 02/25/2013 5:26 PM
By: Amanda Ciavarri

Dozens of children in our area could soon be forced out of a program that prepares them for school if Congress doesn't act soon.

Sequestration refers to the $85 billion in spending cuts that could go into effect Friday March 1 unless Congress acts.  A number of government nutrition programs like Head Start are counting on Congress to act. Head Start would lose $700,000 in funding for preschool and nutrition programs to low income families. And that means 75 children of the more than 1400 who take part would have to leave.

The biggest concern for people is when these cuts, if they go through, would affect them. Would the 75 families have to be cut from Head Start next school year? Or will they have to be cut by Monday?

Carmen Sanchez, parent, said, “They help my little one a lot. Colors, numbers, they start reading books.”

Carmen Sanchez' five year old son is in the Head Start program. It is a program that helps prepare kids 5-years-old and younger for school.  Sanchez says her son has learned a lot since he started. James Norman oversees Head Start programs in our area.

James Norman, CEO, Action for a Better Community, said, “We try to address the social, emotional and cognitive elements of social development.”

But soon some of the kids might not be able to stay in Head Start. If Congress can't find a way to avoid these budget cuts, the program will lose 5% of its funding.

Norman said, “That would be over $700,000 and that would translate to 70-75 families that would have to be released from the program.”

Norman says he hasn't been told, if the cuts happen, when he will have to remove the 75 students. But he says whether it is next week, or next year, it will have a big impact of these kids.

Norman said, “It could mean that they will miss out if the parents can't figure out a way to supplement their developmental experience in the way the Head Start was doing. It means they will miss out on the experiences they were getting to be ready for school.”

And for parents of these little ones, this news of possible cuts makes them uneasy.

Sanchez said, “I think if they cut a lot of stuff, how are they going to learn more and more.”

This is the eleventh hour for Congress, but there is still time. A decision has to be made by Friday for these cuts to be avoided. The people with Head Start say it is important to call your congressmen and congresswomen and tell them how important this and other programs like it are.[

Whether it starts next year, or Monday, 75 kids will be left out of the Head Start program. Officials say they will be forced to make their decisions on the needs of each family. To do that, they will consider things like income and if the parents are away from home during the day.