3:06 pm - Thursday September 26, 5771

Sequestration Could Harm the Littlest Coloradans

Kathleen Ryan

DENVER – Another day, another national fiscal crisis in Congress. Lawmakers have just three days to try to come up with a plan to avoid the automatic federal spending cuts mandated by sequestration.

One of the programs targeted under sequestration is Head Start. Projections show that 70,000 low-income children nationwide could lose access to preschool if sequestration takes place, including about 700 in Colorado.

Pamela Harris, President and CEO of Mile High Montessori school, said the bulk of its pupils are in programs such as Head Start, so sequestration would have trickle-down effects.

“What we would have to do is close a classroom, a classroom for 16 children,” Harris warned. “That would be laying off the teachers in the classroom and a family services worker.”

Earlier this month, President Obama announced a major plan to expand early childhood education, in his State of the Union address. But Harris and others worry sequestration could derail those plans. Sequestration is part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which mandated automatic cutbacks if Congress didn’t act. The fiscal cliff deal last year gave a temporary reprieve to those cutbacks, but only until Friday.

Harris noted that preschool programs also help working parents stay on the job, because their children have high-quality care.

“Quality child care does cost money,” she acknowledged. “But what you get back from it, the short term gains: children are ready for kindergarten, they’re going to be ready for school. And long term, there’s higher rates of high school graduation, of employment,” she added.

And it’s not just child care. Overall, sequestration would cut federal government spending by 5.3 percent. The CBO projects that sequestration would cut economic growth in the U.S. this year by half.

Sequestration fiscal projections for Colorado are at WhiteHouse.gov.

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