Head Start rallies against cuts
by Paisley Boston
Oct 10, 2013 | 1794 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Students from Cleveland Head Start Annex 3 participated in the program by waving flags.
Students from Cleveland Head Start Annex 3 participated in the program by waving flags.
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The crowd yelled, "No more cuts, No more Cuts," as parents, teachers, and local officials held an Empty Seats Rally to end Head Start budget cuts, which have forced them to dismiss 47 children in Bolivar County.

The event took place Wednesday in the parking lot of the Bolivar County Community Action Agency at 10 a.m.

According to Sen. Willie Simmons, the empty chairs represented poverty stricken and disadvantaged children who have been denied the Head Start experience.

Local citizens and officials expressed deep concern and anger about the state of the Head Start programs in Bolivar County.

"Over 57,000 children are being deprived of an education. No one has explained to me yet how that makes our community and our country better. We need an education to make things better and to deny it or refuse a person from receiving it does not make a whole lot of sense to me. We have over 18,000 individuals who have been working in these Head Start programs who no longer have jobs, and with no money there is no way to pay into our economy, there is nothing to pay into it," said Attorney Alicia Thomas.

Head Start has been a national commitment to comprehensive services for poor children since 1965, but the deep cuts caused by sequestration are closing that window of opportunity.

"I feel real bad for our nation as a whole because of the budget cuts, families are suffering and everybody is feeling the heat from this. I just feel that it is time to end all of this opposition between the democrats and republicans. They need to come together and look out for the best interest of the people. They need to know that people in the United States are hurting because of the budget cuts and its time for it to end," said Executive/Education Director Elnora Littleton. "

Head Start programs have had flexibility to implement the 5.27 percent cut, which amounts to nearly $405,000,000 nationally, but all programs were faced with very difficult decisions about cutting services to children, families, and communities.

According to local resident and parent of a child that has not been allotted the opportunity to attend Head Start, Stephanie Burney, Head Start is an essential component of a child's development.

"I think that its an absolute shame that they are cutting Head Start because they are taking so much away from all of these children such as interaction with other children, learning, colors, numbers, all of that. Children need certain fundamentals. I can't afford daycare. I am a full time mother with four kids and a disabled husband," added Burney.

Sheriff Kelvin Williams, former Head Start student, expressed apprehension about the budget cuts.

“I am a product of Head Start, and I didn’t turn out bad. I can remember those days when Head Start was a major instrument and I being where I am today. I try to support the community, but sometimes people forget what its all about. Its not about us, if we could put our differences aside, and that’s from him all the way to Washington and do what's best for the children, then the world would be a whole lot better. Our children are the most important components to the world, because they are our future."

According to the National Head Start Association, all families and children who attend Head Start are or will be affected by the budget cuts.

"We need our Head Starts. Everybody can't afford to put their children in daycare, but the children need the education nonetheless. There ain't no education like a Head Start education," added Thomas.

Over 15.7 percent of programs in who have children attending Head Start reported cutting transportation, which limits access for the most at-risk families, and 25.5 percent of programs closed centers, in communities that may not have other high quality early learning options.

If the sequester or budget cut is allowed to continue, Head Start programs will face even deeper cuts in 2014, and thousands of families will be faced with the hard choices about finding safety, healthy learning environments for their young children.