U.S. Rep Kathy Castor blames Republicans for cuts to Head Start
Thousands of parents who rely on a federally funded program for childcare so they can go to work or school may be out of luck next year. Across the board spending cuts known as the sequester are slashing funding by 5% this year. During a press conference in front of a Head Start center in Town ’N’ Country Tuesday, U.S. Representative Kathy Castor called on her colleagues to do something about it.
“Now in Hillsborough County, we serve thousands of children. We have over 1,000 young kids that are on the waiting list currently. This is – we want to be able to serve as many children as we can. So, what’s going to happen under the federal sequester cuts? We anticipate 70,000 children across America would lose access to Head Start services, probably 3,000 children in the state of Florida alone. This would prove to be very dire for children in Hillsborough County.”
Castor, a Democrat, blames right-wing conservatism.
“It’s so misguided that the Republicans that control the House of Representatives in Washington continue to force cuts to Head Start across the country.”
And she said Congress does have the power to stop the cuts.
“Last week, the Congress voted to rearrange funding to allow air traffic controllers to remain on the job. That was very important, but they need to realize that the Head Start investments are on par with the investments we make in the travel and tourism industry.”
But Congress isn’t considering restoring funding for Head Start. Castor listened to parents of pre-school aged children talk about how the program has helped them. Lyndsay Salbuske said because of Head Start she’s now well on her way to paying off medical debt she incurred while caring for her son who is a double amputee.
“I had no where to go and I found a women’s shelter I could stay at and I couldn’t afford child care for both of my kids. The cost of child care for two kids when they were 3 and four is, like $800 a month or something like that. So, with the part time job I had it was impossible. But, I came here and Mr. Campbell got me into the program and I was able to better myself. I had some time to be able to look for a better job and plug away and I eventually got a position as a sixth grade social studies teacher.”
Head Start is available to low income families, but many of the children accepted into the program have physical or learning disabilities. Loretta Lhamri was able to go back to school to get a medical coding certification because her children received childcare through Head Start. Now she is working on a business degree. But Lhamri is most grateful that teachers in the Head Start program helped her son.
“We found out he had a speech problem. I didn’t even know it. The Head Start caseworker pointed it out to me. He as just about two and could barely talk. When I took him there at first he didn’t say hardly anything. He pointed for stuff, he pointed and I had to guess. But now he can tell me he wants juice, he wants cereal, he knows it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner – I mean, names.”
Lhamri has worked with other parents and organizations to find other childcare options if the cuts continue. But she said so far, no one has found a plan B.
“This organization, Head Start, helps so many – especially women or men who might be single parents who can’t afford daycare and they’re able to go to work, they’re able to have a house and not be homeless and things like that.”
The 5% cuts to Head Start could also cause some centers to close earlier than they do now. Currently, programs run year round. Some staff members could also face layoffs if funding is not restored.
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