Head Start Held Back by Government Shutdown

As the government shutdown begins this month, many Americans have yet to feel the pinch in their personal lives.  A few days without select federal programs may seem somewhat less earth shattering in it’s reality than it may have seemed in the whirlwind of news bytes and buzz words leading up to midnight of September 30th.  This however is not the case for everyone.  Many non-essential federal programs that are undergoing furlough are crucial in the lives of the most vulnerable of our citizens, our children.  As reported by The Hechinger Report:

The biggest immediate impact could be felt in Head Start programs, though, which are still reeling from federal sequestration cuts that pushed 57,000 children out of the preschool program for low-income children. According to the National Head Start Association (NHSA), an advocacy group, 23 programs in 11 states with grant cycles that begin Oct. 1 are poised to lose grant money due to the shutdown.

“Beyond the headline numbers, this shutdown has real consequences,” said NHSA Director Yasmina Vinci in a statement. “Government shutdown is one cut atop an already deep wound.”

In Prentiss, Miss., a town of about 1,100 people an hour south of Jackson, the Five County Child Development Program closed its Head Start classes on Tuesday after failing to receive funding. “The only funds we have coming in are the federal dollars,” said Jonathan Bines, director of the Head Start program, which serves about 900 children.

As the shutdown proceeds, more and more families with children will be looking for alternatives to their head start program.  In many households, this will mean a parent or family member staying home from work.  These repercussions are already being felt:

Bines says he has received phone calls from parents who are struggling to deal with the closure. In Jefferson Davis County, where Prentiss is located, the median household income is about $26,000, and about one out of every four residents lives in poverty.

“They don’t have any childcare,” said Bines. “Some of them are working. They’re trying to scramble to find a place to leave their children.”

A harsh reality for parents in low income high turnover jobs is the distinct possibility of job loss.

The political tools of congress people, who will not see an interruption to their pay of around 7 times the amount of these families, are directly impacting the lives of their citizens and voters.  The perceived protections from government overreach are likely to mean little in harsh realities where the relied upon services are removed. We can hope paths and services can be found that will help lessen the impact on our children. Maybe more crucially, we can hope that in the future, Congress will take more cautious aim as to collateral damage as they land their political blows.

Brandon Schrecengost

About Brandon Schrecengost

Brandon Schrecengost is a second year student at the University of Houston Law Center. He graduated with his Bachelors degree in Anthropology from the University of Houston in 2007. After graduation, Brandon taught science and music at Sharpstown Middle School in Houston ISD. He began working as an intern with the Center for children Law and Policy this summer and is currently the treasurer of the International Law Society at UHLC. Brandon’s interest in how legal policy effects children the world over, particularly in the realm of education, continues to inform his work.

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