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Children’s Advocates to McAuliffe and Cuccinelli: Stop Head Start Cuts for 800 VA Pre-schoolers

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The following letter (on the “flip”) is from Michael Petit, President of the Every Child Matters Education Fund; Marco A. Grimaldo, President of the Virginia InterFaith Center for Public Policy; and Dr. Nicole Lang, President of Washington Pediatric Associates, and addressed to both Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli. It notes the deep federal budget cuts we’ve seen in the Head Start program (~57,000 children denied enrollment nationally, upwards of 800 children in Virginia alone), and asks the candidates, if elected, to provide state funds to nullify the federal cuts and enable children to enroll in the proven program. Perhaps Chuck Todd might ask about these issues tomorrow night? I’d also encourage both candidates to step up to the plate on this (of course, we all know that Cuccinelli would make things much, much worse).

The fact is, this is one of those rare occasions in politics where doing the RIGHT thing policy-wise is also highly popular politically. As Petit explains, Virginia is currently running a large budget surplus, and “It is shortsighted, while running large surpluses, to cut proven children’s programs…especially since early learning opportunities are overwhelmingly supported by Virginia voters.” In other words, it’s a no brainer, even for politicians. 🙂

P.S. Perhaps Chuck Todd might ask the candidates about this subject at tomorrow night’s gubernatorial debate?

To:

Republican Nominee Ken Cuccinelli

Democratic Nominee Terry McAuliffe

From:

Marco A. Grimaldo, President & CEO, The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy

Dr. Nicole V. Lang, President & CEO, Washington Pediatrics Associates  

Michael Petit, President & CEO, Every Child Matters Education Fund

September 24, 2013

Dear Candidates,

There has been much recent news coverage of deep federal budget cuts in the Head Start program-some 57,000 children denied enrollment nationally, upwards of 800 children in Virginia. We write to ask that should you become governor, you propose state-budget support to nullify the cuts and enable these children to enroll in the program.

The state budget is running a large surplus. Less than $10 million would ensure the children are ready to enter school as eager learners and on a path to academic success.

For almost 50 years, Head Start has provided an early learning experience for millions of low-income preschoolers who would otherwise enter kindergarten without the opportunities available to other children. Without Head Start, many of them would begin school already behind–and many would remain behind.

Virginia cannot afford the cost of school failure. The state’s economy needs every child to develop the skills needed in a global economy.

Although Head Start is a federal program, many states-including Virginia itself in years past-have supplemented Head Start with their own funds because of its solid track record. Indeed, the federal cuts have had much less impact in Maryland than Virginia, because of the willingness of the state, and even counties, to replace federal dollars with local dollars to keep Head Start available for their neediest children.

In fact, it was recently reported in The Washington Post that Governor O’Malley is using $9 million of that state’s surplus to “protect Marylanders against the harm that these arbitrary cuts would cause” to programs such as Head Start.

We know from our polling that the vast majority of Virginians-of all political persuasions-want more early investments in our children. It is both a moral and economic issue, not a partisan one.

We urge both of you to address this issue favorably in the weeks ahead. We would be happy to provide you with the details surrounding our request. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Michael Petit

Dr. Nicole V. Lang

Marco A. Grimaldo