Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Value Kids Over Cuts: Why Head Start is Crucial

 “Over the next few months, Congress will be faced with tough decisions. Deep, across-the-board cuts to education and domestic programs loom.
True story.
“Cuts will dramatically cost America’s children: across-the-board cuts could mean nearly $5 billion in education cuts. The cuts have real consequences: Fewer services for more than 9 million public school students and job losses for 80,000 Americans.” 

Whoa.

Head Start programs are often first on the chopping block, generally cited as an unnecessary indulgence.

Oy. What a misunderstanding of Head Start--who and how it helps.

Take 19 year old single mom Rosalie and her daughter in Phoenix.

Rosalie learned how to supportively parent her daughter, access preventive medical care, graduate high school, and get a job. Her daughter got the best beginning and Rosalie got herself and her daughter into a better position.

But now, according to the New York Times, “Tens of thousands of young children from low-income families could be dropped from Head Start programs if Congress cannot find a way to prevent automatic cuts to the federal budget in 2013.”

  • Nearly 1 in 4 Texas kids live in poverty. 
  • Texas ranks 42nd on per student spending. 
  • 60% of kids in Texas have two parents in the workforce. 
  • 14% of 3-year-olds and 57% of 4-year-olds are enrolled in state pre-k, Head Start, or special education programs. 

(Source: Children’s Defense Fund.)

It’s really important to understand -- truly -- what Head Start offers and why these cuts would be bad in the short and long term.

What is Head Start? 


From Wisconsin Head Start Association: “Head Start, a comprehensive early childhood education and holistic development program for children prenatal to five years and their families. . .uses evidence-based best practices and partners with community-based organizations to help remove child and family barriers to success. No other provider of early childhood services. . .provides the depth, breadth, and scope of services that Head Start does.”

These services include: child rearing, job training, learning about health and nutrition, and more (from “What Can Head Start Offer Your Family?”)

And for those of you who worry about “takers,” the program is intended to build independence. To steal a quote, it’s a hand up, not a hand-out.

Most importantly, it works. Head Start kids achieve better in school, are absent less, are more likely to graduate, and the families have increased earnings, employment, and family stability, and decreased welfare dependency, crime costs, grade repetition, and special education. (Source: NHSA.)

Why Head Start early intervention is so important


WestEd’s For Our Babies is one of the foremost advocacy programs for early childhood programs--lead by Dr. Ronald Lally, an international expert on the effect of early intervention. He says:

“The human brain grows to 85% of its adult size between conception and age 3.” Early years are so, so very important and all kids deserve the best chance at a good beginning.

Without mincing words, For Our Babies states in its mission, “A focus on ensuring healthy development during this timeframe will pay dividends throughout life. Delayed, damaged, or insufficient development is very difficult and expensive to correct later in life. If we ignore the earliest years, we do so to the detriment of our children, families, communities, and nation.”

That’s it point blank: programs that benefit kids and their families in early childhood have crucial and long-lasting benefits for the kids, their families, their communities and our nation.

But we’re in a budget crisis.

So why does Head Start deserve funding in a budget and deficit crisis?


Everyone says we have to tighten our belts and everyone is going to have to sacrifice. But we can’t sacrifice our kids and future. That’s penny wise and pound foolish.

I don’t buy every man for himself, especially when it comes to kids.

Julie Weatherston at For Our Babies wrote:
“Pediatrician T.Berry Brazelton, in a recent Huffington Post blog The Bottom Line, reminds us that children must be a priority in post-election spending decisions. Unless Congress acts to come up with an alternate way to achieve the needed $1.2 trillion in savings, across-the-board budget cuts will take effect on Jan. 2, 2013. Dr. Brazelton argues that in order to provide the best we can for America’s children (22% of whom already live in poverty) we must continue to invest in them from the ground up, not cut crucial programs that do just that.”
Dr. Brazelton’s points struck at the heart of why Head Start is so important to all of us:
Children make up 24% of the U.S. population. How our nation treats its children reflects our societal values. Children can't vote. They depend on us -- parents, grandparents, pediatricians, teachers, and other child health advocates and professionals, to do right by them, stand up for them, and advocate for what they need to grow and prosper.
Dr. Brazelton pointed me to the American Academy of Pediatrics, who partnered with other organizations dedicated to the well-being of children and families, to urge Congress to
“. . .pursue a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not disproportionately hurt children. As part of this advocacy push, the AAP has partnered with maternal and child health groups to collectively voice concern with the adverse effects of sequestration on vulnerable populations, worked with other public health organizations to draw attention to the damaging impacts sequestration will have on the health and well-being of children and families. . .”
It seems that all the experts are in agreement: we MUST value kids over cuts.

Please voice that to your elected officials. Your school board. Your friends and neighbors.

Here are a few other simple things you can do to help value kids over cuts:

1. Please take the #kidsnotcuts pledge.

2. Join our podcast discussing kids not cuts on Tues, Nov 13, 2012, 10 am PT/ 1 pm ET to hear more information from experts.

3. Follow our Twitter party on Thursday, Nov 15, 10 am PT, hashtag #kidsnotcuts. Along with expert Lily Eskelsen from the NEA, join me, NYC-based education activist Leoni Haimson, teacher and Babble contributor Kelly Mochamomma Wickham, and Twitter party host Cynthia Liu of K12 News Network. Our expert Lily will be able to answer any of your questions or provide you more resources to see how the proposed cuts could affect kids you know, in your town or city.