KIDS NOT CUTS: The impact of the government shutdown on children

We won't forget

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Budget cuts impact real people, and some cuts never heal. Sequestration has already slashed education funding and Head Start programs by nearly $3 billion. Cutting early childhood programs, such as Head Start, for the most vulnerable children means cutting these students’ chances to enter elementary school ready to learn and condemns many to a lifetime of playing catch-up with their more affluent peers.

Now, with the House GOP refusal to compromise, the federal government has been forced to shut down for the first time in 17 years, impacting even more services, especially for the most vulnerable. The shutdown will result in 800,000 federal workers furloughed, and if the shutdown should continue, programs for students and low-income families will continue to suffer. Access to national parks and museums, resources for field trips, will be among the casualties.  And still, compromise over ending the reckless cuts triggered by the sequester, remains elusive.

The consequences of across-the-board cuts to students and schools are devastating:

  -Already, 57,000 children have lost seats in Head Start classes and the opportunity to be ready to begin school, and with the government shutdown, 19,000 additional children are being dropped
  -Class sizes are ballooning
  - Important programs and services, like afterschool programs that are especially critical for students most in need of extra help, are being cut
  -Professionals like reading specialists, paraprofessionals and counselors have had jobs eliminated, meaning less individual attention to students who need it
  -National parks, museums, and historical sites, resources for field trips, are already being closed

October 11, 2013

NEA Launches “Not a Game” Ad Aimed at GOP Obstructionism

Television and online ads ask Congress to stop playing games with students and the economy

WASHINGTON—The National Education Association (NEA) will launch ads on television and online asking members of Congress to stop playing games and get its priorities straight. The spot, “Not a Game,” is a six-figure television buy with a heavy digital online accompaniment that will air in the Washington, D.C., market and 4 other markets for five days starting on Saturday, October 12, 2013. The ad highlights the Tea Party Republican led obstructionism and target Congressmen Tom Cotton, Jeff Fortenberry, Tom Latham, and Chris Collins, urging them to stand up to the Tea Party and do what’s right for students and the economy.

“Congressional Tea Party Republicans have chosen to play games with the lives of our most vulnerable in society to score ideological political points,” said NEA director of government relations Mary Kusler. “They have forced deep sequester cuts, shut down the government and are on the brink of bringing the nation’s economy to its knees. Students and senior citizens will pay the price for years to come as a result. It’s time for the games to end.”

To date, a disproportionate share of the arbitrary across-the-board sequester cuts have impacted higher-poverty communities and, therefore, the students most in need. Fifty-seven thousand children have already lost critical seats in Head Start classes. Schools served by Impact Aid have already seen drastic reductions in funding, and additional harmful impacts are beginning to be felt in classrooms as the school year begins. Many school districts and their students rely heavily on federal resources for education funding; one in four students attends school in a district that receives 15-20 percent of all revenue from federal sources. For more information, including state-level data, please see this NEA analysis.

It is long past time for Congress to reverse course from the austerity approach that included slashing education across the board by 5 percent this year—the equivalent of cutting nearly all education programs and Head Start by roughly $3 billion. The level of cuts imposed by sequestration have already taken federal funding back to pre-2004 levels while our nation’s schools are serving nearly 6 million more students since that time.

However, the sequester cuts are just the beginning.  The reckless government shutdown is having an impact across the country.  Students who are most in need have lost an additional 7,000 Head Start seats. Free and reduced lunch benefits are about to run out.  This is only just the beginning.

“The actions of extreme Tea Party Republicans aren’t happening in a vacuum,” said Kusler. “These cuts aren’t just numbers—every cut and every action has a real-life consequence for our children and their families. There are millions of children affected by the shutdown. This ad is aimed at holding elected officials accountable by reminding the public what is at stake.

“By pushing for deep cuts, shutting down the government, and flirting with economic disaster, Tea Party Republicans have chosen to put uncompromising partisan politics ahead of students and the American people,” said Kusler. “Congress needs to find a responsible, balanced and permanent approach to avoid inflicting further pain on students, families and communities while demanding the rich and corporations pay their fair share.”

“Not a Game” is the latest in a series of NEA ads aimed at educating the public about how Congressional actions in Washington and affect students, families and communities. The ad will run on TV and online in Washington, D.C., and online in Arkansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and New York. You can view the ad by clicking here or visit

Script –

Footage of several games flash by in quick succession: pinball, bowling, ping pong, a board game, checkers.


These…are games.

But this? This is not a game.

This is not a game.

And this is not a game, either.

But Tea Party Republicans think it’s all a game.

They recklessly forced deep cuts to education

Shut down the government,

And may even throw our country into default on its debts.

Call Speaker Boehner and tell him: Stand up to the Tea Party.

The “Not a Game” commercial is the latest in a series of NEA ads aimed at educating the public about how Congressional actions in Washington and affect students, families and communities. The ad will run on TV and online in Washington, D.C., and online in Arkansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and New York. Copies of the ad can be viewed at:


Government shutdown strips Head Start for the nation’s most vulnerable

by Colleen Flaherty

As the government shutdown carries on thanks to a refusal to compromise on health care by a GOP faction in the U.S. House of Representatives, many families are facing real consequences. The government has closed and stopped funding on all federal government programs deemed “nonessential.”
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Kim Gray is bracing himself for the impact of the shutdown.

“As of right now, because a deal wasn’t passed last night, we will be closed after Friday this week,” said Gray, site manager of the Rock Hill Head Start Center, which is one of eight centers in South Carolina that will close.

Rock Hill serves more than 260 children who are among the 19,000 students across the country who will lose access to these critical services because of the federal government shutdown. This is on top of the 57,000 children that were already cut from Head Start thanks to the reckless, across-the-board sequester cuts. In addition to offering preschool classes to low-income families, Head Start also provides meals, special education services and other basic health care that these children wouldn’t receive otherwise.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Administration for Children and Families will discontinue several grants, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Child Welfare services. “Additionally, new discretionary grants, including Head Start and social services programs, would not be made.”

This will hurt some Head Start programs more than others. Some states have not been able to make up for the funding lost thanks to the sequester cuts. In Florida, several Head Start centers have already closed their doors.

“There’s an old saying I heard recently – when elephants fight, the grass suffers. When Congress fights, the littlest ones suffer. Even the parents are suffering,” said Gray.

Gray began getting calls from concerned parents last week. Parents are worried about their children missing school, and many of the families have few options without Head Start.

“A lot of our families can’t afford childcare,” said Gray. “This will affect the children, but it also hurts the family.”

While these families will have difficulty, Gray is most concerned about the level of concern politicians have for his program.

“This level of education is not nonessential. They need this,” said Gray. “We are the first line for parents who can’t sent their kids elsewhere. The folks on the very bottom are the ones who need it the most.”

For the students Gray works with, Head Start is so much more than “just daycare.” Head Start programs prepare our nation’s most at-risk children for school. They learn social skills and other important skills to ready them for kindergarten.

“If we have to be out on Monday there are a large number of kids that are going to be screwed. While politicians argue, the children will suffer.”

Ohio Head Start teacher to House GOP: My kids are more important than partisanship

by Colleen Flaherty

Thanks to sequestration, over 2,7000 3- to 5-year-olds in Ohio lost services to Head Start, a preschool program for children from low-income families. Now, due to a refusal to compromise on health care by a GOP faction in the U.S. House of Representatives, a government shutdown could mean even more stress on Head Start.
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Brianne Kiessling – who has worked for her Ohio Head Start program for 12 years – is once again worried that her program won’t be able to stay open.

“They [Head Start centers] are basically closed because of the thoughtlessness of our congressmen and senators. Many who have never had to worry whether they are going to have a meal when they get home,” said Kiessling, whose center also provides meals and health care services to its students.

Reckless, across-the-board sequester cuts led to more than 57,000 children losing access to Head Start services. On top of that, the government shutdown means 19,000 more kids in need without program access.
Brianne Kiessling

Brianne Kiessling, Ohio Head Start teacher

“In 23 programs across 11 different states, Head Start programs are now without grant money critical to the delivery of Head Start’s high-quality early education,” said Executive Director of the National Head Start Association Yasmina Vinci in a statement.

“Beyond the headline numbers, this shutdown has real consequences. Community Action of Franklin, Hampshire and North Quabbin – a Head Start program in Massachusetts – was forced by sequester to start their school year one month later than normal. They opened their doors only yesterday. But today, they may have to shut their doors again because the government shutdown has halted their funding.”

For now, Kiessling’s program remains open, but the future – especially if the shutdown goes on for weeks – is uncertain.

“Every year we get smaller because government keeps balancing the budget on our preschoolers backs, which is not fair,” said Kiessling.  ”I think if politicians actually experience what our preschoolers go through on a daily basis, maybe, just maybe, they might see that Head Start is so much more to these families and children.”

“I work hard every day to help prepare my students for their future. I want every one of them to succeed and do something great with their lives, but I fear that in the years to come my job and Head Start may not be around to give these low-income children the chance to be something important.”