by Colleen Flaherty
Thanks to sequestration, more than 2,7000 3- to 5-year-olds in Ohio lost services to Head Start, a preschool program for children from low-income families. Now, due to political games being played by a GOP faction in the U.S. House of Representatives, the government has been shut down, which means even more stress on Head Start.
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Brianne Kiessling – who has worked for her Ohio Head Start program for 12 years – is once again worried that her program won’t be able to stay open.
“They [Head Start centers] are basically closed because of the thoughtlessness of our congressmen and senators. Many who have never had to worry whether they are going to have a meal when they get home,” said Kiessling, whose center also provides meals and health care services to its students.
Reckless, across-the-board sequester cuts led to more than 57,000 children losing access to Head Start services. On top of that, the government shutdown means 19,000 more kids in need without program access.
“In 23 programs across 11 different states, Head Start programs are now without grant money critical to the delivery of Head Start’s high-quality early education,” said Executive Director of the National Head Start Association Yasmina Vinci in a statement.
“Beyond the headline numbers, this shutdown has real consequences. Community Action of Franklin, Hampshire and North Quabbin – a Head Start program in Massachusetts – was forced by sequester to start their school year one month later than normal. They opened their doors only yesterday. But today, they may have to shut their doors again because the government shutdown has halted their funding.”
For now, Kiessling’s program remains open, but the future – especially if the shutdown goes on for weeks – is uncertain.
“Every year we get smaller because government keeps balancing the budget on our preschoolers backs, which is not fair,” said Kiessling. “I think if politicians actually experience what our preschoolers go through on a daily basis, maybe, just maybe, they might see that Head Start is so much more to these families and children.”
“I work hard every day to help prepare my students for their future. I want every one of them to succeed and do something great with their lives, but I fear that in the years to come my job and Head Start may not be around to give these low-income children the chance to be something important.”