Author Sam Carter of TheChicagoSchoolReviews.com & ChicagoSchoolReviews.com
When President Obama came into office, prospects for education looked promising. The President spoke of a vested interest in public education and, according to a recent NPR interview, particularly in early childhood education.
However, the past two years have seen enormous drops in funding for pre-kindergarten education. As sequestration on early childhood education began to take hold, Americans saw funding for Head Start and similar programs for young children drop by more than half a billion dollars. According to a Head Start educator in Arkansas, the budget cuts are already having very real and tangible impacts on these programs.
Head Start, a public education preschool and pre-kindergarten program that provides services particularly for children from low-income families, is dealing heavily with the consequences of sequestration on early childhood education – and the cuts keep on coming. For individual Head Start programs, this means losing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of support for each individual program. As a result, those in charge have to make very difficult decisions in order to keep their programs afloat.
The issue with removing funding from programs like Head Start is that they are not just places for parents to leave their young children during the workday. The idea behind Head Start is the creation of an enriching environment that makes up for what low-income families are unable to provide for their children due to income and time restraints. Head Start is a multifaceted program that, according to its mission statement, provides “educational, health, nutritional, social and other services” to adequately prepare young children from low-income families to be active members of a classroom.
Early childhood education programs like Head Start are doing their best to make cuts without reducing the quality of the services they provide. Because the budget cuts do allow individual programs to decide how they want to deal with the decreases in funding, Head Start program managers are making some difficult decisions with the knowledge that they are affecting not only individual children but whole families as well.
Some programs have had to choose students at random through a lottery system to unenroll from its programs, leaving parents, many of whom work full days, to find sometimes-pricy alternatives for their children. Other Head Start programs have opted to keep everyone enrolled but end the school year anywhere from two weeks to two months early, depending on how long they can afford to keep the program going. Closing early, according to a Head Start program director, will have extremely negative consequences for some of these families, effectively removing a safety net from under them.
For more information about sequestration on early childhood education please visit the following sources: