Head Start Programs Face Cuts as Sequester Looms

Head Start Programs Face Cuts as Sequester Looms

By Lindsey Theis. CREATED Feb 26, 2013

Omaha, NE - Nebraskans could feel the pinch of budget cuts if Washington lawmakers don't reach a deal.

$85 billion dollars in automatic spending cuts are set to go into effect Friday.

Head Start and Early Head Start Services would be eliminated for about 400 Nebraska children, reducing access to early education for kids as young as two. More than 900 Omaha students are enrolled in Head Start and Early Head Start programs this school year. Most families are at the poverty level.

"Early childhood is our civil rights agenda for our generation and it's the kind of thing we don't want to reduce," said Renae Kehrberg, OPS Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, Curriculum, and Assessment.

Parents see results. "My four-year-old knows how to read some stuff and she writes her own name," said Hanny Moralez. She credits that to EduCare, a Head Start program administered through OPS.

"Education needs to start at an early age and if there's no funding for it, then our kids aren't going to learn," said parent Carly Costanzo.

Not all buy into the success of the programs though. Congress ordered the Health and Human Services Department to conduct a long-term study on Head Start programs. The government study found Head Start provided no measurable benefit for children by the time they reached third grade. Kids who participated in Head Start did worse in math, but they averaged better in reading and language.

OPS says teacher layoffs may be necessary if the program is cut.