This coming school year the Head Start program, which provides comprehensive education, nutrition, parent involvement and health services to low-income children will be eliminated for 57,265 children because of the federal sequester.
Spending cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will affect tens of thousands of low-income families who rely on the program for day care, learning programs, social services and medical care, reports the Washington Post.
California, New York and Texas are expected to cut the largest number of spots. Nineteen states and Puerto Rico will lose 1,000 spots, according to ThinkProgress. The “reduction plans” address a mandatory 5 percent cut to HHS. While some Head Star centers cut administrative and support spending, others cut the school day or school year shorter. An estimated 18,000 program hours are being cut in the coming school year.
More than 18,000 Head Start employees will experience lay offs and reduced pay.
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Head Start advocates say the spending cuts will push families already living on the margins even further out. Some programs are cutting transportation to some or all children.
Yasmina Vinci, executive director for the National Head Start Association, said in some cases whole communities are losing all access to Head Start.
“They found ways to fill the gap,” Vinci said, while admitting, “None of that is sustainable.”
Karen Allen, a program director in Northern Virginia, said without reliable transportation she knows “some children will no longer be able to make it to Head Start.”
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While transportation was cut, no spots were eliminated from Allen’s programs in Prince William and Loudoun counties.
Children who attend preschool programs are more likely to stay in school, go to college and avoid crime and teen pregnancy, according to ThinkProgress. Some parents have reported having to leave their jobs because there is nowhere for their children to go while they are at work.
Since the sequester began, services to domestic violence victims, home-bound elderly and people in need of housing assistance have also experienced deep cuts.