Association Puts a Face on the Effects of Sequestration

The National Head Start Association helped create a new photo exhibit that documents the impact of federal budget cuts on five Head Start programs across the country.

Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words—at least that’s what the National Head Start Association is counting on.

NHSA unveiled a photo exhibit this week in Washington, DC, that it hopes will convey the effects of recent federal budget cuts and encourage a renewed investment in Head Start programs that provide health, nutrition, family support, and educational services to more than a million children and their families throughout the country.

Home visitor JoAnna Fool Head, of Badlands Head Start in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, helps a student with his fine motor skills. (NHSA/Angel White Eyes)

“You can talk about how budget cuts affect children and families, but when you show the faces of those children and families who are being affected, it really drives home the devastating consequences of some of these actions,” said Sally Aman, an NHSA spokesperson.

Created in partnership with Curators Without Borders (CWB), a nonprofit that creates and implements educational exhibitions, outreach, and advocacy campaigns for underserved communities, “Lost Opportunities: A Lens on Head Start and the Sequester,” includes images from Head Start programs in California, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, and South Dakota.

NHSA identified the programs, while CWB chose local photographers to document the impact budget cuts were having on program participants and staff.

“You’ll see in the images everything from a child learning in the classroom to a couple of children brushing their teeth,” Aman said. “You’ll see the comprehensive array of services that Head Start offers children and families.”

Two students at Passamaquoddy Head Start in Perry, Maine, brush their teeth after lunch. (NHSA/Donald Soctomah, Stephanie Ann Francis)

It’s not just children who benefit from Head Start services, she added, “but also the parents—involving them in their child’s early education and giving them the tools to, in many cases, work, go back to work, learn life skills, and learn parenting skills while their children are simultaneously learning their own life skills.”

After sequestration took effect last year, more than 57,000 children lost access to services offered by Early Head Start, Head Start, and Migrant and Seasonal Head Start programs, which together laid off or reduced the hours of more than 18,000 staff, according to NHSA.

Adding to the reductions was the government shutdown last October, which left 23 programs in 11 states without their annual federal grant money and roughly 19,000 preschool students without services.

Tommy Hagan oversees a newly leased Audubon Area Head Start warehouse facility in Owensboro, Kentucky. The warehouse holds the contents of 13 classrooms from eight centers that ended the school year early in May 2013 due to sequestration and have not reopened. (NHSA/Sarah Hoskins)

With the photo exhibit, on display in the rotunda of the Senate Russell Office Building January 27-31, NHSA hopes to demonstrate the need for consistent, ongoing investment in Head Start programs, Aman said. “It’s critical. It’s something these families can depend upon to ensure economic mobility for everybody.”

Students excitedly await their turn to stir the granola during a cooking class at St Jerome’s Head Start in Baltimore. (NHSA/William B. Plowman)

Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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