We Need A Better Solution. Don’t Cut Head Start by Leigh Carlson-Hernandez

I am the Director of an early childhood program in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. Prior to my work here I worked in Birth to Three, early intervention, where I spent 10 years supporting and advocating for families and children with disabilities. I worked a number of years in a large Head Start program in Hartford, CT providing high-quality education to at-risk children. I also have three children impacted by the traumatic loss of their birth father via suicide and receive social security survivor benefits.

I find the current debates about the impending budget and cuts to be daunting. The cry for a balanced budget although important cannot be delivered on the backs of our youngest and most vulnerable citizens. Unless Congress and the White House take another path, starting January 2, 2013, there would be automatic cuts of roughly 8% to domestic discretionary programs– including Head Start, child care, K-12 education, WIC, early intervention and many others. This would mean roughly 100,000 children losing Early Head Start or Head Start and 80,000 children losing child care assistance. (NAEYC)

An 8% cut to many people does not seem like much but in our state of Pennsylvania the impacts to a few programs would affect me, both personally and professionally, as Special Education grants reduced by over $33 million dollars equating to 408 less jobs, Special Education preschool grants reduced by over $1 million dollars and 13 jobs, Special Education Grants for infants and toddlers reduced by $1.1 million dollars resulting in 1,358 fewer children with delays and disabilities served, and Child Care and Development Block Grant reduced by $5.4 million dollars resulting in 4,522 less children served thus the parents of those children unable to work.

Lastly, Head Start programs in the state of PA alone will lose close to $21 million dollars in funding. That is another 689 jobs lost and 3,305 children not able to receive a high quality early childhood education.

So how does funding early childhood programs help in the fiscal crisis?

When children, particularly at-risk children experience high-quality early learning programs, they have better school, employment and life outcomes. These results demonstrate the significant economic gains generated by investing in quality early childhood development. The results speak for themselves; School Readiness by Kindergarten, meeting standards in elementary school, reduced special education costs, reduced crime and delinquency, fewer teen pregnancies, increased graduation rates, increased college attendance and greater adult employment and higher wages.

I am pleading for a better solution, fund early childhood education and special education to increase our return on investment. If not for us, then for the next generation, invest in people, particularly young ones.

Budget cuts affect real people and have real consequences, invest wisely.

Sincerely,

Leigh Carlson-Hernandez
Director & Parent
St. Paul’s Episcopal Nursery School

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