ORANGE – U.S. Senator Robert Menendez today joined Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren and administrators at the Montclair Child Development Center, where they spoke about the impact sequestration cuts have had on New Jersey’s neediest kids as well as future affects that could come if a budget deal is not reached to replace additional across-the-board cuts for next year. During his visit, Menendez also toured the school, visited with students and attended a book fair.
“The fact is, the best way we can prepare our children for future success is through quality early learning programs like Head Start,” said Menendez. “And despite the warnings of many of us about the terrible consequences arbitrary funding cuts would have on our most vulnerable children and families, sequestration put Head Start on the chopping block and the thousands of children who rely on it at risk.”
As a result of the across-the-board spending cuts—called sequestration—the federal Head Start program faced the biggest funding cut in its history. In this first year of sequestration, Head Start funding was slashed more than five percent. As a result of this $405 million cut, Head Start programs across the country eliminated services for 57,000 children, cut 1.3 million days from Head Start center calendars and laid off or reduced pay for more than 18,000 employees.
In New Jersey, Head Start and Early Head Start services were eliminated for approximately 1,144 children. While Montclair Child Development Center was awarded a $2.6 million grant, it represents a $240,000 loss in federal funding out of the last half of the school-year budget. As a result, leaders were forced to give up 39 seats to Head Start preschoolers, cancel busing, scale down its summer program, and lay off and furlough staff.
“If Congress doesn’t act by Jan. 15 and sequestration continues, Centers like Montclair CDC will take further funding hits, and countless more children will be denied the critical services they need. We cannot allow thousands of chairs in Head Start classrooms to remain empty. I will fight to restore this funding and put our children back on the path to success,” Menendez added.
“It’s the children who feel the cuts the most,” said Tanya Poteat, executive director of the Montclair Child Development Center. “The students are the ones who suffer. They are the ones who are left behind if this vital federal funding is further slashed.”
The Head Start program, established in the 1960s as part of then-President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, provides comprehensive preschool services, along with medical, dental, and mental-health screenings and follow-up services, nutritional services, and social services for families. Head Start reaches nearly one million children across the country; the vast majority of them are from families with incomes at or below the federal poverty level. Last year, 17,873 New Jersey children were served in Head Start and Early Head Start.
Montclair Child Development Center began providing services in 1968. It currently operates three child care centers in Montclair, Glen Ridge and the City of Orange. The Center is a local private non-profit corporation that contracts with Federal, State, County and local agencies to operate various social service programs and provide comprehensive pre-school services to low-income children and families in Montclair, Bloomfield, Orange and West Orange.
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