Local Head Start programs facing major cuts within the sequester

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News 12 at 6 o'clock / Friday, March 1, 2013


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- The clock is ticking in Washington as lawmakers appear unlikely to cut a deal to avoid what's being called "sequestration." In a news conference Friday, President Barack Obama said massive cuts are now imminent and local educators are waiting to see how it will affect them.

The Head Start Program serves more than 1,500 3- and 4-year-olds in our area.

"He loves it," said Ashley McCall of her 3-year-old son. "He really does. He's learning, he's playing, he's making friends."

McCall is a single mother of two children and her oldest son attends Clara Jenkins Head Start Program. Most of its funding comes from the federal government.

"If I don't have the money right now to pay for daycare and other childcare assistance, I can take my child right here," McCall said.

But Head Start is one of many programs on the list for budget cuts Friday within the sequester.

"I'm in school and if he's not in school, I won't be able to go to school," McCall explained.

McCall's just one of many parents who rely on this program every day.

"We have working mothers, single parents, sometimes parents not able to pay childcare," explained Yvonne Johnson, the director of the Clara E. Jenkins Head Start Center.

"These children that we work with every day, they really need us," added Gloria Lewis, executive director of the CSRA Economic Opportunity Authority. "They're the most vulnerable in our community and not only the children, but also the families."

If Congress doesn't reach a deal by midnight Friday, it could mean 1,700 less students walking through the doors of Head Start programs all over the state of Georgia.

"Locally we have about 85 of those 1,700 and that's equivalent of probably 15 jobs, maybe more," Lewis said.

In the end, she says the littlest ones will pay the biggest price.

"It means that more of our children will be outside of our door and we won't be able to do anything to help them because we won't have the funding," she explained.

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