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Mel Gravely

70,000 Children Could Lose Access to Head Start Under Sequestration

Back in October, when Americans were first becoming familiar with the term “Fiscal Cliff,” I mentioned in a blog post that Head Start has survived the chopping block many times since its inception in 1965.

In 2013, Head Start finds itself in a difficult position with a host of other programs, including those in job training, environmental protection, and public health. As part of the sequestration that came into effect on March 1st, many federally-funded programs will be subject to mandatory cuts across the board. For Head Start, that means a minimum 5% reduction in funding, or approximately $406 million.

5% might not seem like a lot at first, but as The Office of Head Start states bluntly in a brief program instruction document, “We expect enrollment reductions, as well as workforce reductions, particularly in the upcoming program year.”

So the 5% reduction cannot simply be absorbed in administration and overhead. The White House estimates that approximately 70,000 children will lose access to Head Start services, and 14,000 staff will lose their jobs nationally.

For most Americans, today feels like business as usual. But for Head Start teachers and administrators, planning has already begun. While the majority of Head Start programs won’t see funding decrease until the following school year, some programs have to react immediately, depending on when they receive funding.

Moreover, news of sequestration couldn’t come at a worse time for dozens of Head Start programs. Just over a month ago, OHS announced the second round of recompetition and also delayed the first round of grantee notifications. So not only are some programs in the throes of recompetition, but they also have to make plans for the inevitable reduction in staff and enrollment. Not to mention the countless calls from parents and the local media asking questions about how the sequester is going to effect them and their communities.

In the end, this is about serving families and children, about which the National Head Start Association wrote in an email to constituents, “Simply put, the sequester would be extremely painful for our nation’s most vulnerable children.”

What do you think? How is your program handling news of the sequester? We’d really love to hear your thoughts below!


  1. janet says:

    Ask me after March 25. We are on spring break now and were told that in our in service, on the 25th, we will find out what’s to happen. We know we as CACAA/Head Start we are getting a 5% cut but how it will play out is up in the air. 2 years ago we had our hours cut one hour each day. Our health insurance has more than doubled and we have no idea what our hours will be. I really do not believe Mr. Obama cares about our most vulnerable. If he did he would have cut some of the funding for some ridiculous research programs!

  2. Ernest Dickens says:

    I appreciate what the President is doing for education, and I don’t believe it is his desire or intention to cut head start so drastically. Those who are responsible for this cut need to walk in the shoes of the families who so desperately need this funding. Maybe we need to flood Washington with thousands of signatures of Head Start Parents.

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