Shutdown continues to affect our nation’s most vulnerable

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by Colleen Flaherty

As the government shutdown continues due to political games being played by a GOP faction in the U.S. House of Representatives, our most vulnerable citizens are feeling the brunt.

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Aymee Michels, an Idaho Head Start teacher, is worried about her program and her school district, where her daughter also attends school.

“We already lost several centers, several staff, an entire department and several student slots,” said Michels. “Why would we sabotage their  future, their best shot, the people who will be taking over when we retire? There has to be a better answer.”

Across the country, Head Start centers—which have already been forced to cut 57,000 slots thanks to sequestration—have shut their doors to thousands of students from low-income families. As the shutdown continues, several other essential programs that help children in need will go unfunded.

“The ceasing of Impact Aid and Head Start are not the only ways students are hurt by the continued government shutdown,” said Dennis Van Roekel, NEA President and Arizona teacher. “Children rely on many other vital programs and services such as the National School Lunch Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, special education programs or Title I programs, among other programs which provide critical assistance to students who are most in need.”

Van Roekel added Americans have already sacrificed so much, and now is the time for our elected leaders should be investing in programs that make life a little easier for ordinary Americans, like Head Start and special education programs.

Amy Lafferty is a New Mexico educator who is concerned for her students’ access to basic needs. Some of the children in her school get their only regular meals from the subsidized breakfast and lunch provided with federal dollars that are now in jeopardy.

“I’ve seen children cry when vacation began because they said they would not eat much during the summer,” said Lafferty. “It is a crime, just like robbing a store, to rob our children of a chance to thrive and have a chance at success.”

Other federal government programs—while not as essential—have still affected those who least deserve it. Andra Hollenbeck, an Oregon teacher, takes students from her Title I school to visit the Oregon Caves National Monument every year.

“They learn about geology, geography, the scientific method and watershed management,” said Hollenbeck. “That is in jeopardy now. Many of these students will never have an experience like that again.”

In order to reopen the government, Congress needs to pass a clean Continuing Resolution. However, a small GOP faction in the House is increasingly more concerned with partisanship than continuing to fund these important government programs.

“Congress must immediately pass a clean CR to ensure that the most vulnerable among us are no longer the victims of this current political stalemate and we can focus back on undoing the harmful effects of the sequester,” said Van Roekel.

Reader Comments

  1. I am tired of the NEA reinforcing the extreme partisanship in this country. Negotiations, lawmaking, law amending and compromise requires both sides to work together. This site and OUR organizations blatant siding with the Democratic party does not help the cause of education in America. All sides must be ready to work together to forge education policy with input from the populace, not leaders forcing a one sided view. This country was purposely founded with intense debate. The union’s weakness to oppose nonsensical high stakes standardized testing, a disregard for immigration laws and targeting constitutional rights like the 2nd Amendment demonstrate our union is part of the problem instead of advocating for our students success and safety with respect for the rule of law.

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