Thursday, February 28th, 2013
This is a guest post from Ann O’Leary, the director of the Children and Families Program at the Center for the Next Generation. The Center has launched a campaign called Too Small to Fail, a national movement to raise awareness about the state of America’s children and how the country can come together to create a stronger future for the next generation; we at Parents are one of its partners.
In an effort to save $1.2 trillion over the next decade, the government may take a sledge hammer to the federal budget on March 1st, and in the process cut billions of dollars to programs that directly serve children.
That is unless Congress and the president can come to an agreement on different paths to lower debt that has accumulated over the last decade.
But, let’s step back and look at a few of the impacts if the federal government goes through with the planned cuts:
- Early childhood education through Head Start would eliminate 70,000 student positions;
- Special education, funded through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), will face a direct hit laying off 7,200 staff members who care for and educate children with disabilities;
- Cuts to Title I education spending – the program that directs dollars to schools with low-income and vulnerable student populations – will eliminate funding for more than 2,700 schools unfairly impacting nearly 1.2 million children; and
- 600,000 women and children would lose access to nutrition assistance through the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program along with leaving 30,000 low-income children and their families without the funds they need to keep their children in child-care.
Protections for children can go a long way to supporting their growth and development. Just look at Alfa, who has broader dreams of becoming the first in her family to attend college. She benefits from a learning environment at her public school, and we put thousands of more children just like her in peril if we proceed with these blunt and arbitrary cuts to their education and health.
Here in California, the hit will be felt especially hard, as some 8,200 children will lose Head Start services, thousands of teachers will face unemployment, and, in a cruel twist, over 15,000 children in the state will not receive vaccinations for common diseases such as measles, tetanus, and influenza.
Yet, these cuts also expose a harsh reality when looking at our federal spending priorities: kids, who don’t have a political voice of their own, will bear the burden of the spending reductions to pay off debts accumulated by their parents and grandparents.
The devastating consequences of these decisions will inflict harm on children, particularly because they interrupt education, health care services, and child care supports that experts agree are the building blocks of healthy adults.
While the negotiators on both sides have saved some programs from cuts, including Social Security, Medicare, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), these cuts unfairly impact vulnerable populations who rely significantly on these programs to help make ends meet.
Only time will tell if our leaders decide to make the wise – as well as moral – decision to work to find a solution to these spending cuts and continue to put investments back in children.