Head Start program budget slashed by sequestration cuts

Dozens rally outside Park Ave. Head Start Tuesday in Columbia to urge lawmakers to "Invest in U.S."

President Obama announced Monday that 57,000 children across the U.S. will be cut from the Head Start program this school year, out of nearly a million children served.

Mid-Missouri advocates for the program are saying corporate tax dodgers could make up for the $400 million that the program is losing nationwide.

"Invest in U.S." was the theme of a rally held by Grass Roots Organizing this morning outside Park Ave. Head Start in Columbia.

About 30 to 40 people spoke about the importance of education in the state of Missouri.

"You can't have it both ways, you can't continue to give tax the richest and continue to cut programs that we all count on in the community," said Robin Acree, the director of GRO.

Speakers were urging Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill to be their voice in Washington D.C. in September, especially when it comes to making cuts to the Head Start program.

Nationally, sequestration cuts will slash $400 million dollars from a $8 billion dollar Head Start budget.

One speaker said some corporate companies are allotted a $370 million dollar tax break on private jets, close to the amount of funds being cut from this program that dates back to the 1960s.

In mid-Missouri, Central Missouri Community Action oversees 20 Head Start centers across 8 counties, serving about 700 children.

105 slots were cut this year due to funds being slashed by sequestration.

"We made the choice to cut the number of slots we had available for Head Start families because we weren't willing to give up on the quality of the program. We want to make sure that those kids and families that are enrolled are getting the best possible service," said Darin Preis, Executive Director of the CMCA.

Mid-Missouri Head Starts have already stretched funds by reducing bus transportation and making changes to be more efficient.

One teacher said the program is vital to many children who have no other option for pre-school.

"Early intervention is key for all children and that is what our program is all about, being that early intervention and setting an educational foundation so when they get to school, they're ready to be safe, kind, and responsible learners," said Head Start Classroom Coach Jackie Cornell.