Mass. group rallies against cuts to Head Start program, petitions Sen. Warren


BOSTON -- An estimated 2,015 Massachusetts preschool-age students, including 19 from Berkshire County, will lose access to education this fall due to federal budget cuts.

Now, pre-kindergarten advocates are lobbying to prevent further cuts.

On Wednesday, a group called Massachusetts Fair Share delivered more than 5,000 petition signatures to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren's staff at Warren's district office in Boston.

"Everyone knows we should be educating children. It's a broad priority," said Massachusetts Fair Share spokesman Nathan Proctor.

He said the issue is something the public can get behind before Congress hits its budget deadline in September.

"As we go through the huge budget debate, we want to make sure [Warren] knows and that people pay attention," he said.

After handing Warren's staff their petition, Massachusetts Fair Share thanked the senator for her opposition to the federal sequester cuts, which took effect back in March, and urged Congress to put a halt to the sequester and avoid additional cuts.

Fair Share reports that Congress already has cut $1.7 billion in federal education spending nationwide. Massachusetts will lose $47 million in the school year beginning in September.

Berkshire County Head Start, which prepares children for school through classroom programs and home visits, has seven locations in Berkshire County and operated on an approximately $2.4 million budget last fiscal year.

Berkshire County Head Start Executive Director Stacy Parsons said that she appreciated the organization's efforts and Warren's stance. She also lauded Berkshire County delegates for supporting and advocating for education funding in general and Head Start in particular.

"Basically public education and more raising awareness are where we're at right now," Parsons said.

Berkshire County Head Start made several adjustments to save money in a way that would affect the minimal amount of students and families.

Administrative staff will be taking 10 furlough days. One classroom in North Adams has been closed. Transportation and field trip cuts have been made. The program will resume later than usual this year -- beginning Sept. 16.

"With the first round of cuts, we have that little room to adjust while we're working to get funding restored," Parsons said. "If they cut further, the impact will be deeper."

Proctor said the petition and Wednesday's rally can serve as a "springboard for continuing the conversation" around preserving and progression early childhood education in the state and country.


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