Sequestration cuts hit mid-Mo. childhood education programs

May 10, 2013

The future of early childhood education programs like Head Start hangs in the air as recent federal budget cuts, or sequestration, will eliminate resources aimed to provide low-income families a quality foundation for the beginning of a child’s education. The most recent cuts have put Columbia Public Schools in the position of funding two instructional aides.

Head Start, a childhood development program, was created in 1965 to provide the services a low-income child needs at an early age to be successful. The program is funded through Central Missouri Community Action, a non-profit organization that aims to provide those needs academically, socially and emotionally. The organization estimates funding cuts will result in 1,200 children losing access to Head Start, and Head Start itself will suffer a loss of $7 million that will not only affect the kids, but the jobs needed to help those kids as well.

Jessica Long, spokesperson Central Missouri Community Action, said the impact of these cuts will make it harder for low-income families, who often lack influence, to make their way out.

“It’s going to make it that much harder for families in poverty to work their way out," Long said. "People are not paying attention to how these programs impact the poor, and since the poor have not as much voice, people are not hearing the problem.”

Columbia Public Schools is responding to this funding loss by funding two instructional aides that the Head Start program could no longer provide. The two aides will cost the school district $59,000, but it will not have to cut funding in other areas.

Columbia Public Schools Spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said it was vital to maintain the resources of programs like Head Start as they are critical to the beginning of a child’s education.

“It really is imperative that our kids are ready when they get to kindergarten so they could be successful and in order for that to happen we have to have quality early childhood education in place," Baumstark said.

If funding cuts continue, Long said programs like Head Start will not be able to sustain themselves.