Head Start parents and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Tampa/St. Petersburg, FL) today decried the impending harm to Hillsborough County Head Start students and families from the national "sequester" as Republicans continue to force "across-the-board" cuts and fail to examine any sequester replacement plan.
Nationally, Head Start could be cut by $398 million, serve 70,000 fewer children, and cause layoffs of around 14,000 personnel due to sequestration.
Florida could lose funding for almost 2,000 Head Start students, and Hillsborough County Head Start -- one of the largest initiatives in the Southeast United States -- is facing a $1.4 million cut that will eliminate playgrounds, reduce classroom supplies and bus services, cancel teacher training and reduce staff. If Congress does not act soon, Hillsborough County Head Start families will be dropped from the important early education initiative.
"Congressional Republicans are acting irresponsibly by following the path of nonsensical, across-the-board cuts rather than focus on job creation and a sequester replacement plan. Hillsborough already has a waiting list of 1,000 students, and Congressional Republicans will force more children to wait and leave families with no good options," Rep. Castor said. "Last week, flight delays were addressed by Congress when Republicans finally realized the impacts of these draconian cuts and granted the U.S. Department of Transportation more budget flexibility. Congress must now stand up for our families and children who are also victims of these big budget cuts."
Rep. Castor cosponsored an amendment to the Republican-proposed 2012 and 2013 budget that would turn back cuts to schools and Head Start. It was defeated by Republicans in the House Budget Committee on March 13.
"Research has consistently shown that only high-quality, pre-kindergarten programs have produced substantial positive outcomes -- including school readiness, educational attainment and decreases in social problems," Rep. Castor said. "But a national report released yesterday shows that state funding per pre-kindergarten child in Florida is severely lacking, and continued to decline last year, leading to poor quality standards. Hillsborough County's Head Start is a nationally recognized program and its quality standards cannot be setback with unnecessary harmful cuts."
The State of Preschool 2012 shows that pre-kindergarten resources per child in Florida dropped $219 last year to $2,281, less than half of the recommended $4,597 to meet quality standards suggested by industry experts. Florida Head Start per-child spending met the minimum recommendation and must meet quality standards to qualify for federal funding. The report was produced by the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University.
While in Congress, Rep. Castor has been a champion of Head Start and led the fight to increase funding for Head Start students, bringing nearly $5 million to Tampa Bay.