Budget cuts stun those who care for poor children

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Federal budget cuts mean Head Start programs for kids are taking a big hit, and some are even calling the cuts the biggest in the program's history.

The federal spending cuts known as "sequestration" have forced Head Start programs across the country to take a five percent budget cut. Head Start says that means more than 57,000 kids will be cut from the program.

Places like Operation Breakthrough are now sorting out what that will mean for their kids.

Operation Breakthrough has more than 300 kids who are part of the Head Start program for kids six weeks to six years old. Co-founder Sister Berta Sailer says she's stunned that the politicians couldn't find a way to spare the neediest kids.

"It surprises me with all the literature and stuff on brain development for young children why they would even consider this when it serves poor children who need a head start," says Sailer.

Sailer spent all morning on the phone trying to figure out exactly what the cuts would mean for Operation Breakthrough, and she's still trying to sort it out, but she is bracing for bad news. Missouri is slated to cut more than 1,500 kids from its Head Start programs.

"If we lost kids and funding we'd have to cut back on staff," she said, "they could find another solution to this I think if they wanted to."

In some states the cuts will mean shorter school years and shorter school days, plus laying off or reducing pay for staff. Some Head Start programs are getting rid of medical and dental programs and bus routes.

Bonnie Phillips works at Operation Breakthrough and has kids in the daycare. She says she feels for the parents who will be impacted by these cuts.

"These parents can't work if they don't have child care and if they don't have child care, no money is coming into the household so there goes the food," said Phillips. "They make you feel bad about being poor, even if you're doing everything right, going back to school doing what I'm supposed to do, but you can't get a break."

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