Head Start would suffer under federal sequester cuts - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Head Start would suffer under federal sequester cuts

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Federal lawmakers are still trying to reach a compromise to avoid the so-called "sequester," massive spending cuts set to kick in Friday.

The sequester could have damaging effects on education with a combined $12 million slashed from Iowa's K-12 schools and special education programs.

Preschool programs could also be a victim of federal budget cuts.

Almost 900 kids are able to get free preschool education through Tri-County Child and Family Development in Black Hawk, Butler, and Grundy Counties.

Preschool educators say the federal cuts would be devastating, with fewer kids getting access to school and potentially all of us taxpayers footing a bigger bill in the long run.

From ABC's to counting, Head Start preschoolers learn the skills they need to succeed in school, and Tri-County child and family development is able to provide this education free to families.

"We're going to do the things we need to do to reach the neediest families, and these are families that are going to come into the school systems.  If they've been with us, they have a better chance of having an even start, if you will, in the public school system," Kim Young-Kent/Tri-County Child & Family Development, director

All five of Katrina Dufauchard's kids have attended Head Start, and she's seen their language and social skills improve.

"They more speak out on what they want to do or what they know," Dufauchard said.

But up to a hundred Tri-County Head Start students could be turned away if the federal sequester cuts happen.  That's on top of the 60-plus kids already on the waiting list.

"It becomes very hard to look at families and say, 'Sorry.  Not today,' or, 'You're not as needy as somebody else,'" Young-Kent said.

Young-Kent says it's not just families of preschoolers losing out with possible cuts.

"Because you know what, one way or another, the taxpayer's going to pay," said Young-Kent.

That's because without this preschool program, more students would likely need remedial education in the public schools, which costs more than head start, and it doesn't stop there.

"There's a direct link between school outcomes and social emotional outcomes for children and families in graduation rates and, unfortunately, incarceration rates.  So one way or another, the public is going to pay.  And for every dollar you spend on Head Start and early Head Start, you're going to save seven dollars in the long run in other social gains which you don't have any choice about spending," Young-Kent said.

Federal cuts to head start programs locally could top a half million dollars, which is just to much for Tri-County to absorb without slashing services and letting go teachers.  So Head Starts nationwide, like a lot of other programs, are just hoping congress acts now to avoid the cuts.

Federal dollars are the primary funding source for Head Start.  Statewide, more than 500 kids could lose out on Head Start preschool with the federal sequester cuts.

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