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Head Start Cuts Were ‘Painful’

Rockfeller says he will defend Head Start funding

February 24, 2011

WHEELING - David Murphy said votes by Congressman David McKinley and fellow House Republicans to cut $61 billion from the federal budget may cost Murphy's children a chance to go to Head Start.

However McKinley, R-W.Va., said the plan to cut $1.1 billion in Head Start funding nationwide is necessary.

"Because Washington has previously saddled future generations with unconscionable debt, we are being forced to make some painful decisions," McKinley said.

Article Photos

Photo by Casey Junkins
Representatives of Northern Panhandle Head Start Inc. stand outside the Wheeling Federal Building on Wednesday to protest a vote by Congressman David McKinley.

Although McKinley voted for the cuts - which recently passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives by a vote of 235-189 - Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said he will fight to make sure Head Start remains funded when the Democratic-controlled Senate considers the budget bill. No bill can become law without passing both chambers of Congress and being signed by the president.

Murphy, a Wheeling resident, was one of about 15 protesters who stopped by McKinley's local office at the Wheeling Federal Building on Wednesday on behalf of Northern Panhandle Head Start Inc. Some of those in attendance entered the building to speak with McKinley's representatives, while a few other protesters remained outside to attract support from those passing by on Chapline Street.

Murphy said he has been unemployed for more than a year now, noting that he and his wife, Irene Gonzalez, are back in school at West Virginia University and West Liberty University, respectively. Murphy and Gonzalez said the federal Head Start program provides affordable day care and educational opportunities for their young children, 4-year-old Jacob and 22-month-old Irenita.

"I know there are things they need to cut, but cutting out Head Start is not the answer," Murphy said.

According to Northern Panhandle Head Start Executive Director Marlene Midget, at least 426 children from McKinley's district will lose their Head Start services and 161 staff members will lose their jobs if the cuts are enacted.

"They (Congress members) have a very tough job," she said. "We just ask them not to make these cuts on the backs of our children because then we won't be prepared for the future."

McKinley knows cutting Head Start may hurt low-income families across the Mountain State, but said government and families must make sacrifices.

"With the deficit at record levels and families being forced to tighten their belts, now is the time for government to cut back as well," McKinley said.

"No one should find any enjoyment in curtailing worthy programs and agencies that help people. Head Start is one of those programs, and that's why funding for Head Start has consistently increased throughout the last 20 years," he added. "These decisions were not easy - but they were necessary."

Rockefeller, however, has a different perspective on the matter.

"Head Start is an important and proven investment in our children's future," Rockefeller said. "We should not be shortsighted with cuts that will hurt children and make it harder for them to succeed in school.

"House Republicans claim that they want to help the economy and jobs, but they then back budget cuts that will hold our kids back and force Head Start to cut an estimated 563 jobs in West Virginia and 55,000 jobs nationwide," Rockefeller added.

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