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A budget proposal could cause an estimated 51-thousand children across the country to lose their spots in local Head Start programs

Children's advocates are slamming a budget proposal to slash funds for Head Start, the program that provides free preschool for kids in low-income families. Suzanne Potter of California News Service explains.

It's part of the budget battle in Congress, which has to pass a budget or a continuing resolution by Friday to avoid a government shutdown. Melanee Cottrill with Head Start California says conservatives in the House of Representatives want a six-percent cut in Head Start funding, while Democrats in the Senate have proposed a two-percent increase.

"The 6% cut would reduce a significant number of slots and services. In California, Head Start serves about 90,000 kids. And we would lose about 6,000 of those kids if those cuts went into place."

Cottrill says the two-percent increase proposed by Democrats who control the U.S. Senate is appreciated, but would not keep up with the cost of living or inflation. If the six-percent cut goes through, an estimated 51-thousand children across the country would lose their sports in local Head Start programs, leaving those families to scramble for child care.

House conservatives, citing concerns about the national debt, have proposed cuts to many social service programs — including nutrition assistance for women and children, teachers in lower-income school districts, youth job training, and college affordability programs. Cottrill says when it comes to Head Start, lawmakers should look at the overall impact of the program.

"Head Start is a proven poverty reduction program. It's been around since the 1960s. It is incredibly effective. It is an investment — in our families, in our kids, and in our educational system — that pays dividends down the line."

Research from the National Head Start Association shows these programs are particularly beneficial to Hispanic and Black children, dual-language learners, children who are homeless or in foster care, those who qualify for free school meals, and those whose mothers did not graduate from high school.

Suzanne Potter is a journalist with 30 years of experience as a reporter for TV, radio and print news. She spent 15 years as a local TV news reporter in Palm Springs, CA and Providence, RI. She earned a B.A. in Mass Communications from UC Berkeley and spent a year at the Sorbonne in Paris. She lives in Palm Desert, CA, is married with four children and is a longtime leader with the Boy Scouts of America.