Sequestration could cut from Va. Head Start programs

MANASSAS, Va. (WJLA) - Sequestration could affect{ }thousands of children who attend preschool in Virginia.{ }Parents marched to their local senator's office Thursday to get answers and present a petition against education cuts that will affect the state's Head Start program.

Through the doors and down the hall to Sen. Tim Kaine’s Manassas office they went, carrying more than 6,000 petitions opposing cuts to Virginia education programs. The cuts would affect most low-income, at-risk and special needs families.

“Congress has already cut $17 million from Virginia schools through the sequester and now Paul Ryan and other Republicans in Congress are looking to cut an additional $6.9 billion,” says Chris Ahsan of the Virginia Fair Share campaign.

Dana Forrest, whose daughter has{ }Down Syndrome,{ }was one of the petitioners Thursday.

“To make sure she gets the education she deserves so she can be a functioning member of society when she gets older,” says Forrest.

Sequestration has already meant a 5-percent cut to Head Start programs. The Georgetown South Early Head Start Center in Manassas serves infants to 3 year olds, including Samantha Cruz’s daughter, Bella.

“She’s 15 months and she loves it,” Cruz says.

The kids learn developmental skills in a loving environment, and Cruz says any cuts would be tough.

“I would have to figure out completely different alternatives to be able to go to work and provide for her, so it would be very hard,” she says.

“We will make sure that the Senator gets word that all these folks are concerned,” says Joe Montano of Senator Kaine's office.

Some Head Start programs are reducing staff or services instead of cutting slots. And while the Senate budget proposal that Sen. Kaine supports would restore the 5 percent sequester cut and add funds, the House version would cut more. Congress has until September 30 to hammer out a deal.