During a keynote address to education leaders from across North Dakota, U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp vouched for the effectiveness of Head Start and committed to pushing for more resources for early childhood education programs.
Heitkamp spoke at the North Dakota Head Start Association Conference after she returned from Washington where she had been working with a bipartisan group of 13 other Senators on a compromise to re-open the federal government, prevent the United States from default, and put our country on a long-term path to address the deficit and reduce spending. The plan Heitkamp and the bipartisan group of Senators put together helped establish a viable compromise to resolve this impasse, and it paved a way for the bill the House and Senate passed on October 16.
"At a time when we should be investing in more programs like Head Start, wrongheaded policies and reckless across-the-board spending cuts are causing real damage," said Heitkamp. "We absolutely need to reduce the deficit, but we can't do it by slashing crucial programs, like Head Start, which give our children the affordable education opportunities they deserve and saving taxpayers money in the long run. One of the most important elements in the agreement Congress came to this week requires the House and Senate to finally sit down and negotiate a budget. It is my hope that during these negotiations, we can work to address the real causes of our deficit and spending problems, and avoid harsh cuts to proven early childhood education programs."
Automatic across-the-board spending cuts, or sequestration, went into effect earlier this year and were signed into law before Heitkamp came into office. These cuts slashed nearly $405 million to Head Start, resulting in 57,265 fewer children participating, including nearly 200 in North Dakota.
The recent government shutdown took $24 billion out of the economy, and cost taxpayers $160 million daily. It had a significant impact on many programs relied on by North Dakotans, including Head Start. Head Start programs in six states were forced to close their doors and more would have been at risk if the reckless shutdown had continued.