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Sequester Slashes Washington Head Start, K-12 Funding

At least 1,000 children could be kicked out of Head Start programs in Washington due to the automatic federal budget cuts that began today. The "sequester" slashed $9 million from the state’s school readiness programs for low-income kids, and as early as next week, the state’s Head Start programs will start telling some families there isn’t funding for their kids anymore.

Washington State Association of Head Start and the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program Executive Director Joel Ryan said the cuts affect some of the most vulnerable kids in the state. "This is a pretty rotten situation," he said. "Many of them are homeless, many of them are kids that are in foster care, many of them are facing great deprivations and are living on the margins. They are the kids in our state that need more help than anybody."

The sequester also cut federal funding to K-12 education in Washington, but those cuts won’t take effect until next school year. Title I funding for low-income students has been reduced by an estimated $13 million in Washington state alone, and the sequester slashed an estimated $11 million for the state’s special education students. "It’s going to be a dramatic impact," said Seattle Public Schools Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance Duggan Harman.

Harman said unless federal funds are restored by next school year, the district will have no choice but to cut services for English language learners and low-income students citywide. Harman says the district is required by law to maintain special education services, so it will have to find that money elsewhere.

Year started with KUOW: 2008