This has been a major week for the future of children’s programs. We want to give you a breakdown of what is being debated and tell you what you can do to fight the wrong decisions many in Congress want to make.
On October 1st of last year, the federal fiscal year 2011 began. The Congress did not pass a budget funding government programs. Instead they passed what is known as a “continuing resolution” that funds programs at essentially the same level they were in 2010. This resolution will expire on March 4th. Congress needs to pass final legislation that will fund the government until September 30th of this year or at some point government could "shutdown.' The fiscal year for 2012 will begin on October 1st of this year.
What the Congress is Currently Considering
The House of Representatives recently proposed a series of cuts to the budget for this year. Last week we told you about how they proposed $32 billion in cuts – including to the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, community health centers, poison control centers, and other children’s programs. This was not enough for some members of the House, particularly those who associate with the “Tea Party” movement. On Friday night, a day and time known by government officials as the best to release information that they know will get the least amount of media coverage, the Appropriations Committee offered an additional $42 billion in cuts. These include
- Head Start - $1 billion (15%) cut
- Community Health Centers - $1 billion cut
- Community Services Block Grant - $341 million cut
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance contingency fund - $390 million cut
- Title I (K-12 education for low-income students) - $693.5 million cut
- IDEA (special education) grants to states - $560 million cut
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, & Children (WIC) - $747 million cut
- 21st Century Community Learning Centers (after school programs) - $100 million cut
- Maternal and Child Health Block Grant - $50 million cut
- Child Care Development Block Grant - $39 million cut
Many other children's programs will be eliminated entirely. Some examples include:
- Teen Pregnancy Prevention Grants
- Mentoring Children of Prisoners
- Even Start
- Striving Readers
- High School Graduation Initiative
- Student Aid – for higher education
- LEAP program (for low-income college students)
The House could include even more cuts as they debate this resolution.
These cuts are wrong on many levels. They harm children at a vulnerable time in their development. The economy remains in recession, and an all-time record number of children (14,567,000) currently live in poverty. Cuts like this would mean that 368,000 low income 3-and 4-year olds would lose the education and nutrition program they receive at their Head Start center. The education cuts, along with others being made in states, would leave thousands of teachers out of jobs this year. Many in Washington say these cuts are needed to reduce the deficit. However, these cuts would take only 2% off this year’s projected deficit. So essentially, these cuts harm children and don’t solve America’s fiscal challenges.
What You Can Do
Contact your member of the House and Senators and tell them you oppose these cuts and why. They will listen to you. The original House proposal included a $210 million cut to the Maternal and Child Block Grant. When they heard from people opposed to this, the Republicans reduced their cut to $50 million. Many lawmakers are not fully supportive of all these cuts. When they reduce these cuts, they are showing just how much discomfort they have. Click here to contact your representatives. Some suggestions when you get hold of someone in their office:
- Tell them that Congress needs to start budgeting like real families and put our nation's kids first! Please stop these harmful proposed cuts to programs that are essential for our nation's economic future.
- Remind them that scientific research and leading economists have said for years that investing in children is one of the smartest investments we can make. We need more investments in the health, safety, and education of children, not mindless cuts.
- Ask them what they would say to the 4-year-old in their district or state who is forced out from his or her Head Start program.
Let us know what they say.
What Happens Next
Even if the House of Representatives passes all of these cuts to the budget for this year, the Senate has their say as well. Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has slammed these cuts, saying “they would impede the federal government from completing even its most core functions.” President Obama has threatened to veto these cuts. This debate will continue throughout the year.
At some point, Congress will begin debating the budget for next year. This week, President Obama released his budget for 2012. Overall, it contains a small increase to children’s programs. Not all programs receive an increase. The President proposed cuts in juvenile justice, heating assistance for low-income families, and community service programs. He makes up for this somewhat with increases in Head Start, afterschool programs, child nutrition, child health, and education programs. We will let you know much more about this proposal for next year, but the main business in Washington is to fight the cuts House members want to make to children’s programs, right now.