It is estimated that nearly 60,000 preschool-age children will not have the chance to take part in the Head Start program this year, due to cuts stemming from the sequester negotiated between the White House and Congress.
This is the result of a cut of 5%, or $400 million, to a program that served 1.4 million children in 2012 through 1,600 agencies. This cut has a direct impact on 900 children in Los Angeles county.
Some lawmakers still joke about the predictions that the White House considered catastrophic on the impact that the automatic budget cuts would have, and for them, this is insignificant.
On the other hand, for these tens of thousands of children, it could be the difference between failure and success. The preparation and comprehensive support that this program provides to the children of poor families has an impact throughout their lives.
For many Republican lawmakers, Head Start is a program that squanders money, lacks control, and has a minimal impact. They point to an official study showing that there is not much difference between first and third-grade students who went through Head Start and those who did not.
No one disputes that measure. The problem is that these legislators are ignoring the many studies confirming that a minority student who went through Head Start has a better chance of graduating from high school that one who did not. Likewise, students who did not benefit from the program have a higher chance of ending up in jail that those who did. That is why this project has always enjoyed strong support from all strata of society.
The sequester was the outcome of failed budget negotiations. The difference is that automatic funding cuts were one of the White House’s negotiating tactics, while for Republicans, they were an acceptable goal that they seek to continue.
Exceptions have already been made, as with the air traffic controllers, to prevent sequester cuts, and several industries are lobbying to be excluded. The 60,000 poor children whose lives will be affected by the Head Start cut also deserve an exception.