Sequestration Threatens Head Start Programs - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Sequestration Threatens Head Start Programs

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There doesn't appear to be much common ground in Washington DC and time is running out.

If an agreement is not reached by Friday, across the board budget cuts likely will take effect.

Those cuts will include federal funding to dozens of social programs.

One of them taking a heavy hit: affordable childcare.

"Every parent-teacher conference is just to see how much they've grown and it's awesome knowing from where they were when they were born to see them now is overwhelming," Alma Pruneda, a South Fargo mother, said.

The school year has been full of milestones for Alma's twin girls since they started at Head Start.

"It helps children catch up," Barry Nelson, Head Start Director in Fargo, said. "They stay caught up and then they even exceed children of comparable ages."

Alma is one of thousands of low-income parents making ends meet. She works full-time at night and attends nursing school during the day.

She says having Head Start for her kids helps her, as well, when she needs some time alone to study or catch a nap.

But major federal budget cuts are threatening what makes it possible for her.

"I am expecting to wake up Friday and have to make some decisions," Nelson said. "I think we will be scrambling."

It all comes at a time of need for North Dakota.

If these cuts go through they're not just taking away from kids in classrooms, there are also 300 more kids just waiting to get in.

"Immediately, this could have the impact of families scrambling to find affordable childcare and already we have a shortage of it," Nelson said.

For a staff already running at full capacity, something's got to give.

"My children are so eager to get up in the morning and go to school even on the weekends," Alma said.

Meaning, Alma's days of counting milestones may be fading fast.

"My challenge to people that are playing games with programs that affect children's lives is to face that family or look that child in the face to say, because we cannot come to a solution for funding for early childhood education and for Head Start, you can no longer participate in this program," Nelson said.

North Dakota is one of the few states that doesn't receive state funding for Head Start.

So, if federal cuts go through, they won't be made up anywhere else.

But, Nelson says he won't make any cuts without knowing what impact they will have. He says parents will have notification of any changes.

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