Sequester would mean cuts for Head Start programs

7:42 PM, Feb 19, 2013   |    comments
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PAINESVILLE -- We're just days away from another deadline in Washington that could change a lot of things for you at home.

Sequestration, automatic, across the board spending cuts, was meant as a default plan to stop spending -- if all else failed. The US government will hit that default on March 1, if nothing changes.

While the 400 children at Lake-Geauga United Head Start don't have jobs or pay taxes, these too are the people a budget sequester could impact.

"They really are like any other 3 or 4 year old, just by circumstances that really have nothing to do with them, they are living below the federal poverty level," said Laura Hopkins, the executive director.

On top of the students they serve, about one hundred more are on the waiting list.

The children spent about four hours each week day at the federally funded preschool program, getting a 'head start' on their academics and social skills.

"We know that by investing money in a child when they are three and four years old, we are saving our public school systems money, and a lot of other systems money as they grow up," said Hopkins.

That's why she sees these automatic budget cuts as so dangerous. "To make an across the board cut to every single program, is really, almost irresponsible," she said.

The Ohio Head Start Association, Inc. has crunched the numbers. Estimating for a 7.8 percent reduction in funding, the 14th Congressional District alone will lose more than $4.9 million, meaning 845 children will have to be dropped without services, and 169 staff members will lose their jobs.

In the 16th Congressional District, the numbers are higher: $5.6 million, 924 children dropped, and 185 people who lose their jobs.

"If mom or dad's employment is dependant them being at HeadStart for part of the day, then mom or dad might lose their job," said Hopkins of the ripple effects. "Their health might suffer. Really it's the whole gambit of their lives; it would be really unfortunate to see that happen."

Hopkins urges people to reach out to their Congressional representatives with their concerns.


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