By Wiha Powell
Sequestration! A big word, feared by many, has a huge impact on the American people.
On March 1, 2013, cross-the-board federal spending cuts known as sequestration took effect. These automatic spending cuts have been rippling across the country since then, causing effects to many government non-defense discretionary programs. One program that is greatly affected by these cuts is the well-known Head Start program, which is now facing a $406 million cut. This cut leaves thousands of children victims of Washington’s indecisiveness.
Head Start is a federal program that was created in 1965 as a part of Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. The program helps low-income families by promoting school readiness for children from birth to five years. It enhances cognitive, social, and emotional development. Basically, the program helps thousands of low-income children with diverse developmental challenges to transition from preschool to kindergarten. Each child gets to engage with their peers outside of the family network, adjust to the space of a classroom, and meet the expectations that a school setting provides. The program also provides comprehensive services for children and their families including health, nutrition, and other services that are necessary to the families needs.
These devastating cuts will cost the Head Start Program to lose 5 percent of its federal funding this fiscal year. This bars
approximately 70,000 children from participating in the program; thousands of nutritious meals will no longer be served; no more dental and medical follow-ups; and most importantly no more home visits to parents in order to help them prepare their children to be successful in school.
The real victims of Washington’s budget gridlock are not the people who suffered the sequester-related flight delays back in February. The 70,000 children being kicked out of the Head Start program are the real victims and the ones who are worse off. According to Ron Herndon, the chairman of the National Head Start Association, “We’ve snatched the rug out from under 70,000 of the most vulnerable families and children in America.”
Not to say that the thousands of flights that got delayed in February due to the sequestration was not important. But “Quick Fix Congress”—a body not known for swift action—passed the air travel bill that will help travelers avoid delays at airports. While providing this quick fix for travelers, Congress is leaving behind less visible and poorer constituents that are in need of such a fix. As Herndon stated, “most Head Start parents are not flying on airplanes, but we do certainly think their children should be given just as much consideration.” So the same urgency and bipartisan support that Congress found to provide a quick fix for the flight delays at airports, is the same urgency and bipartisan support Congress should seek to help families and children who are being kicked out of Head Start.
The grand idea behind sequestration is for our leaders to come up with a deficit reduction deal, but that did not happen. Instead, sequestration happened, which affected programs such as Head Start. Basically, Congress needs to regroup and refocus on what is important to the people. They need to sit down and negotiate a balanced plan, a plan that will not affect thousand of low-income children and their families. If an agreement is not reached, Congress will be denying 70,000 low-income children the opportunity to succeed in school. And how does that fit with our goals as a society to be a big promoter of education.