Obama Appears to Have Exaggerated Effects of Sequester on 'Head Start'
9:52 AM, Mar 5, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
In the days leading up to sequestration, President Obama and other administration officials often singled out Head Start as one of the vital programs that would be severely impacted by the automatic spending cuts. Phrases like "70,000 kids get thrown off of Head Start" and "70,000 young children would be kicked off Head Start" were common refrains. On Friday, as the sequester went into effect, President Obama himself said:
That same day, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) put out a memo to Head Start personnel echoing the same claims, albeit in less dire language:
The Obama administration has not released its calculations on how its arrived at the 70,000 figure, but based on past experience, it seems likely that the number is simply an estimate based on the dollars that will not be spent. However, a look at recent Head Start enrollment numbers and budgets calls that assertion into question.
Just a little over a year ago, HHS issued this memo regarding Head Start after President Obama signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012.
So the amount budgeted represented an increase of $409 million over the previous year, an increase of approximately 5 percent. The bottom line is that the 5 percent cut by the sequester simply brings Head Start levels back to where they were a year ago, hardly a doomsday scenario.
And the 70,000 children who will be thrown off Head Start? According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, an organization that compiles numbers on Head Start enrollment, Head Start enrollment for 2012 totaled 1,128,030. Enrollment for the year before, 2011, was 1,125,209, a difference of less than 3,000, a far cry from 70,000.
Obviously these enrollment figures are not unimpeachable and the time periods may not match up precisely, but it would appear ludicrous to say that 70,000 will be kicked off. Unless the administration can back up its claims with hard data, questions may continue to be raised about the dire consequences being predicted by the president and his officials.
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