Can Worries for Head Start Stop?

By Ben Schneider

Now that the government shutdown is over, Head Start families and employees can breathe a collective sigh of relief, right?

During the 16-day shutdown, Head Start pre-school programs in 11 states had to close their doors and lay off employees or seek out alternative sources of funding. Head Start centers in many of these states remained closed for days as uncertainty over Congress’ stalemate abounded. Children were unexpectedly turned away, and working parents struggled to find care for their children.

Until the shutdown’s end, state governments and philanthropists stepped in to reopen or maintain programs for the approximately 19,000 children left without federal funding. That chapter closed when last week’s temporary spending deal restored Head Start funding to 2013 funding levels.

But Head Start’s future is far from guaranteed. Even before the shutdown, the program served 57,000 fewer children in 2013 as compared to 2012 - due to sequestration. With only a temporary 2014 budget in place, it’s unknown whether the national program faces even more funding cuts in the coming year.

NPP’s Federal Priorities database has the latest information about funded Head Start enrollment slots for your state. We’ll be sure to update when the post-sequestration numbers come out next year. In the meantime, you can see how those 57,000 fewer kids break down at the state level, courtesy of the Administration for Children and Families.

Don’t like the sequester? Want to ensure the future of Head Start? Get in touch with Congress, and let them know!