Now that the school year has officially begun, educators are starting to glimpse how a diminished Head Start program can measurably impact early childhood education in America. Indeed, several experts participated Friday in a panel discussion co-hosted by The Atlantic and National Journal that touched on the state of pre-kindergarten education in the United States.
“Even preschoolers aren’t protected from Washington politics,” Emma Green reported Tuesday for The Atlantic. “Sequestration has devastated federally funded programs for babies and toddlers from low-income households. Head Start, the government’s program for funding nutrition education, social services, and cognitive development support for young kids, has been particularly crippled by the cuts. Rep. George Miller, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, pointed out (during Friday’s panel discussion) that young, poor kids consistently get hit hardest by big budget cuts.”
Green’s article conveyed guarded optimism that public support could catalyze a reversal of Head Start’s recent budget cuts. Her positive outlook stemmed in part from recent polling by the First Five Years Fund that revealed 70 percent of registered voters believe America should be doing more to “(ensure) that children begin kindergarten with the knowledge and skills they need to do their best in school.”
Last month a flurry of articles sprouted up with details about the impact of federally mandated sequestration cuts on the Head Start early childhood education program. The final tally of those cuts, per the Washington Post’s Michael Alison Chandler: “Head Start programs across the country eliminated services for 57,000 children in the coming school year to balance budgets diminished by the federal sequester, cutting 1.3 million days from Head Start center calendars and laying off or reducing pay for more than 18,000 employees.”