Head Start Families at the Precipice

Head Start Families at the Precipice

This is a very important article about the impact of sequestration on real people.  It seems to me that people of faith need to digest this and act upon it.  Please click on the Link above to read the full article by Sam Stein.

Among other things, the Tuesday Huffington Post article notes:

In all, 14 children in Pratt, a town with a population just under 7,000, were dropped from Head Start, the federally funded education program for lower-income families. Reynolds’ 4-year-old daughter, Bella, who had learned numbers and words, manners and social skills during her time in the program this past year, was among them — another casualty of the budget cuts brought about by sequestration.

April and Misty had wanted to deliver the news in person to the parents, worried that they would overhear some mangled version of events. Head Start centers in nearby Kingman and Stafford counties had been closed as well, so word was bound to get out. Only late in their talk with Reynolds did they reveal that their slots had also been eliminated.

Sequestration was meant to hurt people just like Reynolds and Bella, Misty and April. The policy’s designers made a bet in the summer of 2011 that a deficit-reduction cleaver that decimated defense and harmed the most vulnerable would be abhorrent to Republicans and Democrats alike. They lost the bet. Sequestration went into effect on March 1, 2013, after lawmakers failed to agree on a replacement.

In Washington, the conventional wisdom has sometimes held that sequestration’s harms were oversold. Dire warnings of massive job loss never came true, while government programs used budget gimmickry to keep operating.

The Huffington Post set out to tell the story of another slice of sequestration: the damage being done to Head Start. The 5.27 percent reduction to the $8 billion program is having a devastating effect on families with children in the program, according to interviews with parents across the country. Not everyone has experienced the loss of a child’s Head Start slot or a teary living room conversation. But parents have been left fearful and scrambling, worried that the cuts are shredding an already frayed social safety net upon which they depend.

For Head Start officials, life under sequestration has been spent trying to ward off the worst for families like Orlow’s. But the efforts to minimize pain have come with a significant and perverse political risk: The smaller the universe of those directly affected by the cuts, the less likely it is that Congress will be compelled to find a sequester fix. And right now the parents most likely to be harmed by the Head Start cuts are those trying to get their kids into the program, not those with children already there.

In Washington state, Head Start officials estimate that 68 percent of providers will be forced to reduce the size of their classes. But the actual reductions are expected to come in the fall, when many parents hoping to enroll their kids won’t find any space available.

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About Tom Bolton

I'm a Husband and Dad, an Enterprise Systems Manager at the City of Milwaukee, and a Disciple and Lay Servant at First United Methodist of West Allis. I love working beside young people. As I study the Bible, sometimes I feel moved to work through my understanding by writing poetry. I also am going through a process to discern my calling, and to learn more about Christian Leadership. Sometimes I just feel like writing about something that grabs my attention too.
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