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Joe Pederson, Published August 24 2013

Letter: Fed cuts affect children

Federal sequestration across-the-board cuts are harming 12 children and their families at Lakes & Prairies Head Start.

As county commissioners, city council members and township officers, we see the real impact of sequestration on Lakes & Prairies Head Start. You don’t see any harm from sequestration? Tell that to the 12 Lakes & Prairies Head Start children and their families that won’t receive Head Start services this school year, or the 258 children and their families who lost three weeks of Head Start last spring. The federal sequestration cut to Lakes & Prairies Clay Wilkin Head Start is $94,379.

Ask any kindergarten teacher if the cuts to Head Start will have negative consequences. They will all tell you how important Head Start services are to low-income and special-needs families. They know which children have received Head Start services and which children have not. Lakes & Prairies uses a research-based, outcomes-driven curriculum that covers 16 domains, including; language and literacy, social and emotional development, approaches to learning, physical health, cognition and general knowledge and parent engagement goals. Children who have attended Head Start are ready for kindergarten.

Ask your county social and public health departments if Head Start is important. They will tell you the social and emotional development gained in Head Start is directly related to fewer out-of-home placements. They will tell you that participation in Head Start is directly related to reduced childhood obesity, improved dental health and increased general physical health.

In addition to the 12 children cut from Lakes & Prairies Head Start, in Minnesota 678 fewer children and their families will receive Head Start services, and nationally 57,000 fewer children will be served. To qualify for Head Start, a family of four must have an annual income of $23,500 or less. A family subsisting on $450 per week has little if anything left after paying for food, clothing and shelter.

When our children were misbehaving, we placed them in “time out.” Congress is on their August vacation, without resolving our budget crises. It’s time Congress and President Barack Obama go to “time out” and get their work done so Head Start children are not hurt by their inaction.

Pederson is president of Lakes & Prairies Community Action Partnership Inc. Also signing the letter: Loren Ingebretsen, Morken Township clerk and Lakes & Prairies board chairman; Stephanie Miranowski, Wilkin County commissioner and Lakes & Prairies secretary/treasurer; Lyle Hovland, Wilkin County commissioner; Jon Evert and Wayne Ingersoll, Clay County commissioners; and Mark Altenburg, Moorhead City Council member, all elected representatives on the Lakes & Prairies board of directors.