Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County -- Surrounded by Luzerne County Head Start staff and parents, Senator Bob Casey (D) Pennsylvania held a news conference Thursday morning. He stressed the importance of a Head Start education to help underprivileged children become productive members of society. "We need Head Start. We need to fund it. We need to make this investment in the future of our children and the future of our economy."
But many won't get a Head Start education this fall because of federal sequestration. Funding cuts would prevent 57,000 children nationally from attending Head Start including more than 2,800 in Pennsylvania. The sequestration cuts as they stand would mean that 32 Head Start students in Pittston would be denied a place in the classroom along with 17 Early Head Start students from both Pittston and Wyoming County. The 49 Luzerne County Head Start children impacted this year would increase to 142 next year.
Harry Heck of Wilkes-Barre, who spoke at the news conference, can't imagine his grandchildren being denied a Head Start education including one grandchild who had a speech problem. "I had one heck of a time understanding him because of his speech. He comes to Head Start here now, it's an all together different world for him and myself," said Mr. Heck. Eneida Cardona of Plymouth also spoke at the news conference. She says Head Start gave her kids a significant educational boost. "My children excel in spelling and math and they're constantly learning day to day," said Ms. Cardona.
Sen. Casey announced he is sending a letter to four key congressional leaders calling on an end to sequestration to preserve funding for key programs including Head Start. "We can do it if we get people working together in Washington to come up with a bipartisan solution," he said.
The funding hit to Head Start nationally would total $400 million. Sen. Casey criticizes that type of cut calling it indiscriminate saying no business or family would operate that way.