By Suzanne Potter, Producer
Children’s advocates are slamming a budget proposal to slash funds for Head Start, the program providing free preschool for children in low-income families.
It is part of the budget battle in Congress, which has to pass a budget or a continuing resolution by Friday to avoid a government shutdown.
Melanee Cottrill, executive director of Head Start California, said conservatives in the House of Representatives want a 6% cut in Head Start funding, while Democrats in the Senate have proposed a 2% increase.
“The 6% cut would reduce a significant number of slots and services,” Cottrill pointed out. “In California, Head Start serves about 90,000 kids. And we would lose about 6,000 of those kids if those cuts went into place.”
Cottrill acknowledged the 2% increase proposed by Democrats who control the U.S. Senate is appreciated, but would not keep up with the cost of living or inflation. If the 6% cut goes through, an estimated 51,000 children across the country would lose their spots in local Head Start programs, leaving families to scramble for child care.
House conservatives, citing concerns about the national debt, have proposed cuts to many social service programs including nutrition assistance for women and children, teachers in lower-income school districts, youth job training, and college affordability programs.
Cottrill argued when it comes to Head Start, lawmakers should look at the overall effect of the program.
“Head Start is a proven poverty reduction program,” Cottrill contended. “It’s been around since the 1960s. It is incredibly effective. It is an investment in our families, in our kids, and in our educational system that pays dividends down the line.”
Research from the National Head Start Association shows these programs are particularly beneficial to Hispanic and Black children, dual-language learners, children who are homeless or in foster care, those who qualify for free school meals, and those whose mothers did not graduate from high school.