Sequestration Cuts Hurting Head Start

Programs at two head start centers in Moundsville will be eliminated next school year as the result of federal sequestration budget cuts, according to Marlene Midget, executive director of Northern Panhandle Head Start Inc.

The agency faces a budget reduction of $270,000 effective July 1, representing a funding cut of 5.27 percent.

Midget said programs serving children age 3-5 at the Creative Learning 1 and Creative Learning 2 centers, both located at 2200 Fourth St., Moundsville, will be eliminated. This will affect 37 students.

Northern Panhandle Head Start will instead move programs for younger children – newborns to age 3 – into the Fourth Street building to save money. The agency rents space for its early head start program at the Marshall County Day Care Center, and cares for 16 children there.

The elimination of pre-kindergarten programs in Moundsville will result in the loss of eight staff positions, but not necessarily that many job losses, Midget said.

The agency will also reduce mental health contractual services by 40 percent, and limit transportation services to head start centers.

Midget, some members of her staff and parents of head start children recently sat down with Brooke Fletcher, a field representative for U.S. Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va., to discuss their concerns about the sequestration cuts.

McKinley and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., voted for the original Budget Control Act of 2011, but against activating sequestration in January.

McKinley believes sequestration “is not perfect, but was something needed after no action was taken by either the President or Senate,” said spokesman Jim Forbes.

Capito said she is “very concerned about the families that will be affected by sequestration.”

Meanwhile, Democratic Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, both D-W.Va., voted in favor of both the budget act and the resolution authorizing sequestration.

“It is discouraging and shameful that Congress cannot work in a bipartisan manner,” Manchin said. “We cannot sacrifice our children’s futures because Congress cannot work toward solving our nation’s financial problems.”

Rockefeller noted he has voted in favor of more recent legislation “targeting spending reductions, closing corporate tax loopholes and stopping wasteful subsidies.”

“Head Start is one of our most successful federal programs that is being squeezed by sequestration’s careless across-the-board cuts,” he said. “It’s incredibly frustrating to me that at a time when our economy is improving and our deficits are going down, Republicans in Congress won’t work with us to end the painful impact of sequestration. We’ve got to invest in our country’s future, especially when it comes to our kids’ education, rather than being short-sighted and really hurting American families.”