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News & Politics News & Politics

Spending cuts taking hard toll on Head Start

Posted by on Aug. 19, 2013 at 1:59 PM
  • 77 Replies

When the school year resumes this fall, at least 1,359 Massachusetts children — 259 more than earlier estimated — will probably not be in Head Start classrooms because of automatic across-the-board federal spending cuts.

The cuts, the legacy of so-called sequestration in Washington, will have a bigger impact than the federal government originally estimated, with slots for the preschoolers disappearing statewide, classrooms closing, jobs lost, and the school year ending early in some communities, officials say.

“You’re going to see seats empty in September,” said Pam Kuechler, executive director of the Massachusetts Head Start Association. “It’s really going to be hurtful to kids.”

The association polled the state’s Head Start providers, and Kuechler said as of last week, 21 of the 29 providers said they anticipate eliminating a total of 1,359 slots for children next year, about 20 percent higher than federal figures released in February predicting a loss of 1,100 Head Start and Early Head Start seats for Massachusetts.

In addition, about 120 jobs will be eliminated in Head Start centers statewide, Kuechler said.

In other cost-cutting measures, some programs also plan to start the school year late, while others will no longer provide transportation for the preschoolers.

Programs must submit proposals for ways to achieve the mandated cuts to the federal government by Saturday.

Head Start is a federal grant program designed to give 3- and 4-year-olds from low-income families a jump start on their education by intervening at a time in their lives when academic disparities begin to emerge. Early Head Start, which is a component of Head Start, serves pregnant women, infants, and toddlers.

Started in 1965 as part of the War on Poverty, Head Start aims to address the social, emotional, and academic needs of more than a million children in classrooms nationwide as well as aid their families. Students learn ABCs, numbers, and science basics, most notably, in one Jamaica Plain classroom, about caterpillars.

Head Start is one of a broad range of programs, such as those that provide housing for the poor and shelter for the homeless, that are beginning to suffer from the impact of sequestration, the term applied to sweeping federal spending cuts intentionally forged to be so dire that they would force Washington lawmakers to reach a compromise on reducing the nation’s deficit.

The compromise never happened, however, and the cuts, designed to last a decade, automatically took effect in March. As a result, Head Start providers across the country were ordered to slice 5 percent from their budgets.

“The sequester is the most mindless and unconscionable thing I’ve seen them do in a long, long time,” said John Drew, president of Action For Boston Community Development, which administers the city’s Head Start program.

The country, he said, “should be taking care of its most vulnerable citizens.”

In Boston, about 200, or about 10 percent, of the seats in Head Start classrooms will be empty next year because of the reduction in federal funds. Between 60 to 70 staff members are expected to lose their jobs as well, said program director Yvette Rodriguez.

Laramii Wright, 23, was confident that her 2-year-old son would go to the Head Start center in Jamaica Plain in September, when he turns 3. That center is where his older brother and sister learned to tie their shoes and write their names in English and Spanish.

But Wright was shaken when she learned at a recent meeting for parents that the budget cuts mean fewer children will be accepted in the fall, and she has no guarantee that her son will have a spot.

She worries that she will not be able to return to cosmetology school for lack of reliable child care, and that her son, who attends a home day-care program, will not be ready for kindergarten because she cannot afford private preschool.

“Children deserve to be in classroom setting at all times with children of a similar age instead of at a home with 5-year-olds, 3-year-olds, and 1-year-olds,” she said.

In Massachusetts, Head Start and Early Head Start provides about 16,000 preschoolers — 2, 500 in Boston — with a full day of learning in classrooms, and dental, vision, and nutrition services at no cost to families whose annual household incomes fall within federal poverty guidelines. For a family of four, that’s $23,050 per year.

Nationally, the sequester’s 5 percent cut from Head Start’s $8.1 billion budget means 70,000 slots for children must be eliminated in order to achieve the necessary savings, according to initial estimates from the White House.

by on Aug. 19, 2013 at 1:59 PM
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Replies (1-10):
Billiejeens
by Ruby Member on Aug. 19, 2013 at 1:59 PM
1 mom liked this

Why do Barack Obama and Jack Lew hate children?

JTROX
by Bronze Member on Aug. 19, 2013 at 2:03 PM

Our area head start lost a classroom due to cuts.

happinessforyou
by Member on Aug. 19, 2013 at 2:35 PM
8 moms liked this

Maybe it's time we stop "reacting" to our stupid government and start being "proactive" and start educating our own children. Seriously-who NEEDS head start? Yeah it's nice to ship your little one off to free daycare, but what in the world does head start do that a parent cannot?

I am a college graduate who did not go to headstart. (imagine)

Or how about all the people using head start programs come together as a community and make sure their program is funded. Grass roots will always do better for people than a government-run program will.

NWP
by Guerilla Girl on Aug. 19, 2013 at 3:14 PM

Ugh

UpSheRises
by Silver Member on Aug. 19, 2013 at 3:18 PM
2 moms liked this

The Early Head Start program i manage is struggling because of sequestration.

Why does all of congress hate infants, toddlers, and pregnant women?

Billiejeens
by Ruby Member on Aug. 19, 2013 at 3:24 PM
2 moms liked this

 

I don't know where you get your information but it has nothing to do with Congress.

Barack Obama wanted the sequestration, he got his sequestration.

Quoting UpSheRises:

The Early Head Start program i manage is struggling because of sequestration.

Why does all of congress hate infants, toddlers, and pregnant women?


 

JTROX
by Bronze Member on Aug. 19, 2013 at 3:27 PM

As someone who was a hs teacher, I can tell you that many of our parents did not have the capabilities to help their child.  That is why hs is not merely free daycare, but also works with the families to help the adults be better parents.

Quoting happinessforyou:

Maybe it's time we stop "reacting" to our stupid government and start being "proactive" and start educating our own children. Seriously-who NEEDS head start? Yeah it's nice to ship your little one off to free daycare, but what in the world does head start do that a parent cannot?

I am a college graduate who did not go to headstart. (imagine)

Or how about all the people using head start programs come together as a community and make sure their program is funded. Grass roots will always do better for people than a government-run program will.


erika9009
by Silver Member on Aug. 19, 2013 at 3:30 PM
1 mom liked this

Sorry, but if the Feds cared enough about headstart  and the kids, they would have rearranged the money.

What the Dems wanted to do was to make the cuts hurt the most.  That way, when they talk tax hikes again, you will roll over and think "Oh, for the children"

This is so 1990's stuff from CA.  The Dems have done this here for years.  These guys in Washington DC are such rookies at the "For the Children" crap.

The worst thing, the kids suffer, not Washington.  I wonder how many really took days off or pay cut. 

happinessforyou
by Member on Aug. 19, 2013 at 3:37 PM


Good response. I worked at a middle school for several years, and there has been head start programs here for years. If they were that amazing, wouldn't the need for it fade away when we all became good parents/students?

In my school- mostly free & reduced, Spanish speaking, those kids had parents or family members home all day, yet still didn't have time or know how to help their own children.  So do the kids need all this help every generation or do we need to educate the parents?

If head start worked really well, why do the same kids need so many remedial classes in K-12 and beyond? I think if it works we should try to keep it, but if the results are spotty, maybe find a better use for the money. KWIM?

Quoting JTROX:

As someone who was a hs teacher, I can tell you that many of our parents did not have the capabilities to help their child.  That is why hs is not merely free daycare, but also works with the families to help the adults be better parents.

Quoting happinessforyou:

Maybe it's time we stop "reacting" to our stupid government and start being "proactive" and start educating our own children. Seriously-who NEEDS head start? Yeah it's nice to ship your little one off to free daycare, but what in the world does head start do that a parent cannot?

I am a college graduate who did not go to headstart. (imagine)

Or how about all the people using head start programs come together as a community and make sure their program is funded. Grass roots will always do better for people than a government-run program will.




gsprofval
by Gold Member on Aug. 19, 2013 at 3:38 PM
3 moms liked this

This quote really bothers me:

“Children deserve to be in classroom setting at all times with children of a similar age instead of at a home with 5-year-olds, 3-year-olds, and 1-year-olds,” she said.

This sounds like the government wants to take the kids totally away from parents, but that probably isn't what the author meant.

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