It’s been almost the full week since the federal government has shut down, leaving parks closed, federal employees furloughed and non-essential services stopped. With both political parties standing strong on their platforms, there seems to be not light at the end of the tunnel for resolution. While Americans nationwide are all going to feel the affects of the government shut down, our children will potentially feel the deepest wounds. Top on the list of programs to feel the financial pressure is Head Start - a federally funded preschool program for children in poverty.
Over the past four days of the government shut down, Head Start programs everywhere began to wonder how this would affect their program. Many found out right away it would mean their program would close its doors after just a few short weeks of school. Government shutdown has left 23 Head Start programs without funding leaving approximately 19,000 children waiting for school to re-open. Five programs closed their doors on Oct. 1, 2013, while others felt they were able to stay open until today Oct. 4, 2013, giving the children a full week of school. Parents are finding themselves scrambling to daycare options finding minimal resources they can afford or trust on their low income.
In addition to the children and parents needing to make other arrangements and missing out on valuable learning time, Head Start employees will also begin to feel the effects when their paychecks are thinner than normal. In order to provide quality, comprehensive services there is approximately 1 employee for every 5 Head Start children. Well over 4,000 American employees will find themselves scraping to make ends meet while the government battles over financials.
Head Start programs nationwide had already been reeling from sequestration cuts that slashed over 5% of the budget. Around the US, Head Start and Early Head Start opened their doors to begin the new school year with excited three and four year olds coming to school and parents knowing their children are safe. Now Head Start’s federal funds are again being threatened.
The local Head Start in Lansing, run by Capital Area Community Services, Inc, receives it’s grant on Aug. 1 annually. So far the agency has been able to draw down funds to continue operations as usual. The only Head Start programs being affected at this time are those whose grant renews on October 1st.