Community rallies against Head Start sequester cuts

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - When the Sequester went into effect, Washington said it could take some time before the average person felt the impact.

Head Start programs were some that could see their budgets slip away, meaning some families could lose out on a preschool education for their children.

It was a call to action, a plea for support and a request to reconsider cuts to a program that may be hit hard by the Sequester.

"If a five percent cut goes through, we're looking at almost three-quarters of a million dollars in budget cuts and if you start cutting slots, that's a lot of children," Head Start regional operations manager Mark Mayasich said of cuts.

On Friday, the community rallied together downtown to support local Head Start programs. The group began at the Head Start headquarter on Rood and 7th Street before marching to Congressman Scott Tipton and Senator Michael Bennet’s offices in the Alpine Bank Center. Neither was in town this morning.

"To cut this program is not going to improve our deficit, but it's going to actually hurt our future," Parents Supporting Head Start group leader Amanda Gomez said. "These are our children, this is our future."

Head Start currently serves more than 2,200 children across Colorado, and nearly five hundred on the Western Slope. Officials say mandatory spending cuts could mean enrollment and service cuts for both.

"There’s so much that happens in these programs that people don't know about," Mayasich said.

Supporters say preschool and education cuts should be avoided. Fruita Monument senior class president Erica Maestas says she's an example of an early education leading to success.

"I was the first person in my family to go through the head start program, and now I’ll be the first person in my family to go to college,” she said. "Preschool does make a difference; it's helped me to succeed."

For other families, Head Start has advanced children socially and emotionally. Dawn Courtney's 3 1/2 year old has seen tremendous growth in the last year because of the program, and it's a program they'll hoping to continue next year.

"[My daughter] wasn't talking at the beginning of the year, just had some speech delays," Courtney said. "It's made it to where she can hang out with her peers and get along with other kids her age."

Until their fate is decided, however, all that's left to do is rally and show support.

"Nothing is ever set in stone. They have the ability to go back and make changes," Mayasich said.

The group ‘Parents Supporting Head Start’ is also actively collecting signatures. The petition argues early education like Head Start is a necessity for children no matter the family’s income.

The Colorado National Monument is also working to cut $93,000 out of this year's budget due to the Sequester.

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