Durbin: Cuts to Head Start Will Devastate Low-Income Families and Stunt Economic Recovery

9,000 Illinois students and 2,000 educators would be affected by $1.1 billion cut in House FY2011 spending bill

[AURORA] – Thousands of low-income children and their families will lose critical access to education, health, and support service programs as the result of drastic federal spending cuts passed by the House of Representatives, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said today in Aurora. Funding for comprehensive early childhood services, including the Head Start program, is cut by more than 20 percent in the House spending bill (H.R.1) for the current fiscal year 2011, which was approved along party lines late last month. Funding for all education programs – from pre-kindergarten through college – would be cut by nearly $4.9 billion.


“We know that a child’s education begins well before he or she enters a school building for the first day of kindergarten. Unfortunately, we also know that many children enter kindergarten well behind their peers, and sometimes aren’t able to catch up. Head Start gives low-income children the solid foundation they need to succeed from elementary school to college and beyond. Investing in education programs like Head Start produces the world-class workers that are key to our nation’s future. Arbitrarily slashing funding for these programs will hinder our long-term economic recovery,” Durbin said.


Head Start provides preschool-aged, low-income children and their families with school activities, health screening, healthy snacks, and structure to encourage parental involvement. The spending bill passed by the House cuts $1.1 billion from Head Start’s funding for FY11 and would eliminate comprehensive early childhood services for 218,000 low-income children and their families next year, forcing more than 16,000 Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms to close their doors nationwide. In addition, 55,000 teachers, teacher assistants, and other staff would be laid off.


The Illinois Head Start Association estimates that Head Start and Early Head Start enrollment in Illinois would be reduced by almost 9,000 children and nearly 2,000 educators could lose their jobs as a result of the House spending bill.


“In addition to devastating the children and families who rely on the critical services provided by Head Start, drastically decreasing funding for this program will cause thousands of teachers, teachers’ assistants, and support staff to lose their jobs. At this point in our fragile recovery, that is just irresponsible,” Durbin said.