Last week, we released a statement saying the government shutdown would hurt children. And throughout the week, stories from across the country confirmed our fears. At the end of the first week of the government shutdown, seven Head Start programs in six states (AL, CT, FL, GA, SC and MS) were closed, leaving 7,195 children without access to Head Start. More than 11,000 additional children risk losing access to the program if the shutdown continues through October.* We are now into day ten of the shutdown with many daily functions of the federal government partially or completely suspended leaving us with two critical questions. How is Congress going to get out of this mess? And what does any of it have to do with new investments in early learning?
We anticipate that key Congressional members and Administration officials will negotiate a deal to re-open the government and increase the debt limit. With time running low, these meetings should ramp up late this week. That’s why now is the time for legislators and the administration to hear from people like you that new investments in early childhood education must be a part of any deal.
While the threat of a long-term shutdown and breaching the debt limit adds a spooky specter to this Halloween season, there is some good news to comfort us. First, President Obama has already spoken in support of early learning. Also, we know supporting early learning is good policy and good politics. 86 percent of voters say giving children a strong start is a national priority. And 63 percent want Congress to take action now.
Fortunately, some of the students and families affected by the shutdown are back in the classroom. But there is only one, satisfying long term solution. New investments in early childhood education must be a top priority in any fiscal deal that is reached. Our children can’t wait another day for the quality education they deserve.
*An earlier version of this blog post stated that 1,900 children had lost Head Start services. The number has been corrected.