MS. REBECCA SHEIR
The federal government shutdown is definitely having a ripple effect throughout the nation. Take for instance, Head Start, the early-childhood education program started in 1965 to help low-income families. Head Start normally provides more than 1 million children with structured education, play, healthy food and free medical care. Now, mind you, the shutdown isn't affecting all Head Start classes, but the program is still reeling from our last budget standoff, which resulted in the broad spending cuts known as sequestration.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
The sequester delivered the worst blow Head Start has ever felt. A more than $400 million cut, which means 57,000 fewer children are able to enroll in Head Start programs across the country. And more than 18,000 staff salaries are being reduced, or eliminated entirely. Emily Berman brings us this story on how these cuts are playing out around our region.
MS. EMILY BERMAN
This week, Head Start supporters rallied in front of the U.S. Capitol. They came from all across the country and all with the same problem. Head Start has more kids than ever in need of their services, they say. And there's less money to make those programs happen. One of the protesters is Alonzo Hooks, a single dad in D.C.
MR. ALONZO HOOKS
Without Head Start, basically, I wouldn't be able to work. So I actually need the Head Start. And it helps the kids to learn.
Sen. Patty Murray, from Washington State, used to be a preschool teacher. Now, she's chair of the Senate Budget Committee.
SEN. PATTY MURRAY
Head Start has been pulled into this debate that's a budget debate, but really it's a debate about our values.
Every dollar spent on early childhood development, Murray says, is an investment in the child’s future.
And when you cut that investment you may make that budget look a little bit better in the short run, but you are doing lasting damage to our children and to the long term competitiveness of our country.
The Department of Health and Human Services has estimated how many kids will be cut from Head Start in each state. And in our area the numbers were spot on. In D.C. they estimated 97 fewer slots for children, in Maryland 462 fewer, and in Virginia 1,189. And when you think about the fact that a million kids are enrolled in Head Start, these numbers can seem small, but not once you go into one of these classes and realize that all these kids, all 18 of them may not have had the chance to be here.
Tammy Mann is the executive director of the Campagna Center, which operates all of the two dozen Head Start classrooms in Alexandria, Va. We're in one of the Head Start classrooms, in the back of T. C. Williams High School.
To deal with the sequestration cuts, Mann was planning to cut one entire classroom. But with a look of relief, she explains that in the end, she didn’t need to. Alexandria stepped up to replace the exact amount cut from federal grants.
MS. TAMMY MANN
One of the wonderful things about Alexandria is members of city council, individuals that are a part of the Department of Human Services, they understand and they get the importance of early investing.
This year is covered, but Mann says she has no idea what could happen next year.
It creates certainly a state of uncertainty that's not good. It's not good for the community. It's not good for the families.
In a similar move, earlier this fall, Fairfax County allocated money from the county’s Sequestration Reserve Fund to cover the cuts to Head Start. Meanwhile, across the Potomac, Maryland is one of about 20 states addressing these cuts at a state level. Gov. Martin O’Malley approved $4.1 million for Head Start this year, which makes up for 80 percent of the federal cuts to programs throughout Maryland.
MS. LINDA ZANG
We are being lauded by many other states.
Linda Zang oversees Head Start for the Maryland Department of Education.
I receive emails every day from colleagues around the country saying I wish we could have gotten our legislature to do the same thing. I think Maryland is really leading the pack in that area.
All the programs in Maryland still had to make cuts, she says, but far fewer than they originally thought. And as is the case in Virginia, there's still no telling what will happen next year. I'm Emily Berman.
Did you or someone in your family attend Head Start? What do you think of the program? You can reach us as at firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Twitter. Our handle is @wamumetro.
Time for a break now, but when we get back, love in an elevator, or at least a whole lot of hits on YouTube.
MR. ANDREW REAMS
We are going to have an opportunity to ride a very unique elevator. That's right. This thing, this beautiful Otis elevator.
And going up, up and away with an instructor of aerobatics.
MS. MARIANNE BUCKLEY
I think it's in every pilot's blood to be a pilot. They're going to do everything and anything to go flying.
That and more is just ahead on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5.
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