by Colleen Flaherty
It’s been five months since Congress failed to prevent the reckless, across-the-board sequester cuts that cut billions from federal education funding. Now parents, educators and students are preparing to return to school and survey the damage.
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On Monday, Head Start, a federal program that provides preschool to low-income families, announced that services will be eliminated for more than 57,000 children, 1.3 million days will be cut from the school year calendars and 18,000 employees will be reduced.
Jason Hammonds has been a Head Start teacher since 2004 in Kentucky, where his program has been struggling for years.
“It is already difficult to get the help we need with our current budget. We will not be able to serve families that are in need of our program,” said Hammonds.
In addition to preschool, Head Start also supplies meals, transportation and basic medical care, all services that have been reduced or cut completely.
“I will never understand why low-income families and families with special needs continue to be among the first in line with cuts.”
Brianne Kiessling has been a Head Start teacher for 12 years in Ohio where services for over 2,700 children have been cut.
“I love the work I do with my preschoolers,” said Kiessling. “Yes, the cuts will affect me, but the ones that are going to hurt the most are the low-income 3- to 5-year-olds who have no choice in what happens in their young lives.”
It is easy for people like our congressmen to sit there and say, oh they don’t need that, it isn’t important. They have never spent the day in the life of a low-income preschooler. The meals that we provide might be the only meal they get that day. The education we provide is one that I know my colleagues and I work hard to provide to make sure that it is going to help prepare them for kindergarten.
Currently, President Obama has been pushing his plan to provide preschool for all children. However, this will not affect children this year nor address the other services Head Start provides for the 5.1 million children under the age of five living in poverty.
“I am not a Head Start teacher because of the money seeing as most of my co-workers can qualify for a lot of the programs that our parents can because of the lack of pay, but I do this for the children who deserve a fighting chance at a fair education,” said Kiessling.
“They don’t deserve to have a budget balanced on their backs because of stubborn and selfish politicians.”