Sequestration Cuts To Education Programs Threaten To Widen Education Gap Between Rich And Poor

— by Adam Peck on Feb 22, 2013 at 6:15 pm

The achievement gap between school districts in high-income neighborhoods and those in low-income ones is already more canyon than crack, and if $1.7 trillion in automatic sequestration cuts are allowed to go into effect on March 1, that gap could grow even wider.

Dozens of education programs would face reduced funding, but three crucial programs — No Child Left Behind, Head Start initiatives, and the Individuals with Disabilities Act — provide the most assistance to low-income students and also face the sharpest cuts if the sequester is allowed to go into effect, as the Center for American Progress’ Juliana Herman and Kaitlin Pennington detailed in a new report:

Altogether, the sequester would cut approximately $725 million from Title I funding, potentially affecting 2,700 schools, impacting 1.2 million students, and placing 9,880 education staff at risk of losing their jobs. […]

Head Start and Early Head Start—a similar program for infants—both work to ensure that parental income does not determine whether a child will be able to learn during these influential years. But should sequestration happen next week, approximately 70,000 children will be kicked out of Head Start due to inadequate funding. […]

If sequestration goes through, funding under the Individuals with Disabilities Act could be reduced by as much as $579 million.

In all, the report estimates, the cuts would impact as many as 1.2 million children, 30,000 teachers and 2,700 schools, the overwhelming majority of which will be from low-income communities.

Recent studies have shown the devastating correlation between income and student achievement. Since the late 1980s, the gap in metrics like college completion between students from high-income and low-income households grew by more than 50 percent.

This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

Fact Sheet: The President’s Plan for Pre-K Education for All

The President’s Commitment to Early Education

A zip code should never predetermine the quality of any child’s educational opportunities.  Yet studies show that children from low-income families are less likely to have access to high-quality early education, and less likely to enter school prepared for success.  By third grade, children from low-income families who are not reading at grade level are six times less likely to graduate from high school than students who are proficient.  Often, the high costs of private preschool and lack of public programs also narrow options for middle-class families.

High-quality early childhood education provides the foundation for all children’s success in school and helps to reduce achievement gaps.  Despite the individual and economic benefits of early education, our nation has lagged in its commitment to ensuring the provision of high quality public preschool in our children’s earliest years. The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimates that the United States ranks 28th out of 38 countries for the share of four-year olds enrolled in early childhood education.  And fewer than 3 in 10 four-year olds are enrolled in high-quality programs.

Preschool for All

  • The President’s proposal will improve quality and expand access to preschool, through a cost sharing partnership with all 50 states, to extend federal funds to expand high-quality public preschool to reach all low- and moderate-income four-year olds from families at or below 200% of poverty.  The U.S. Department of Education will allocate dollars to states based their share of four-year olds from low- and moderate-income families and funds would be distributed to local school districts and other partner providers to implement the program.  The proposal would include an incentive for states to broaden participation in their public preschool program for additional middle-class families, which states may choose to reach and serve in a variety of ways, such as a sliding-scale arrangement.
  • Funds will support states as they ensure that children are enrolled in high-quality programs.   In order to access federal funding, states would be required to meet quality benchmarks that are linked to better outcomes for children, which include:
    • State-level standards for early learning;
    • Qualified teachers for all preschool classrooms; and
    • A plan to implement comprehensive data and assessment systems.
  • Preschool programs across the states would meet common and consistent standards for quality across all programs, including:
    • Well-trained teachers, who are paid comparably to K-12 staff;
    • Small class sizes and low adult to child ratios;
    • A rigorous curriculum;
    • Comprehensive health and related services; and
    • Effective evaluation and review of programs.
  • The proposal also encourages states to expand the availability of full-day kindergarten.  Only 6 out of 10 of America’s kindergarten students have access to a full day of learning.  In order to ensure that our kindergartners spend the time they need in school to reach rigorous benchmarks and standards, funds under this program may also be used to expand full-day kindergarten once states have provided preschool education to low- and moderate-income four year-olds.
  • Under the President’s proposal, investment in the federal Head Start program will continue to grow.  The President’s plan will maintain and build on current Head Start investments, to support a greater share of infants, toddlers, and three-year olds in America’s Head Start centers, while state preschool settings will serve a greater share of four-year olds.

Quality Early Learning for Our Youngest Children 

  • The President will also launch a new Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership program, to support states and communities that expand the availability of Early Head Start and child care providers that can meet the highest standards of quality for infants and toddlers, serving children from birth through age 3.  Funds will be awarded through Early Head Start on a competitive basis to enhance and support early learning settings; provide new, full-day, comprehensive services that meet the needs of working families; and prepare children for the transition into preschool.  This strategy – combined with an expansion of publicly funded preschool education for four-year olds – will ensure a cohesive and well-aligned system of early learning for children from birth to age five.
  • The President is proposing to expand the Administration’s evidence-based home visiting initiative, through which states are implementing voluntary programs that provide nurses, social workers, and other professionals to meet with at-risk families in their homes and connect them to assistance that impacts a child’s health, development, and ability to learn. These programs have been critical in improving maternal and child health outcomes in the early years, leaving long-lasting, positive impacts on parenting skills; children’s cognitive, language, and social-emotional development; and school readiness. This will help ensure that our most vulnerable Americans are on track from birth, and that later educational investments rest upon a strong foundation.

Under the Reading Lamp — 2/8/2012

The Great Carbon Bubble

image03Bill McKibben, Op-Ed: “It’s no secret where this denialism comes from: the fossil fuel industry pays for it. (Of the 16 authors of the Journal article, for instance, five had had ties to Exxon.) Writers from Ross Gelbspan to Naomi Oreskes have made this case with such overwhelming power that no one even really tries denying it any more. The open question is why the industry persists in denial in the face of an endless body of fact showing climate change is the greatest danger we’ve ever faced.”

Right-Wing Media Aren’t Concerned About Helping the Poor, but They Sure Want to Help the Rich

image07News Analysis: As income disparities continue to increase, and the effective tax rate paid by the rich remains at historic lows, right-wing media figures work hard to make sure none of that changes. They routinely attack the poor and programs designed to assist them, while simultaneously extolling the rich and defending them against any attempt to get them to pay their fair share of taxes.

BP Made $3 Million an Hour In 2011, While Spill Victims Continued to Suffer

image01Rebecca Leber, News Report: “BP’s 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill is still affecting the lives of many Americans, particularly the tens of thousands that have not settled lawsuits with the company. Yet the company has bounced back from the billions it lost in the wake of the spill. BP announced today that its 2011 profit totaled $26 billion, a 114 percent jump from the year before, when the company’s ‘failure of supervision and accountability’ caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history.”

The Downward Mobility of the American Middle Class, and Why Mitt Romney Doesn’t Know

image06Robert Reich, Op-Ed: January’s increase in hiring is good news, but it masks a bigger and more disturbing story – the continuing downward mobility of the American middle class. Mitt Romney says he’s not concerned about the very poor because they have safety nets to protect them. He says he’s concerned about the middle class. Romney doesn’t seem to realize how much of the middle class is becoming poor.

Report Finds Millions of Families Three Months From Poverty

image05Susannah Nesmith, News Report: According to America’s Youngest Outcasts, a report by the National Center on Family Homelessness, 1.6 million children in the United States were homeless at some point in 2010, the most recent statistics available. During the recession, from 2007 to 2010, child homelessness spiked 38 percent nationwide. According to the 2011 Council on Homelessness report, Florida’s public school districts identified over 49,000 Florida school-age children as homeless during the 2009-2010 school year.

Debt, Toll Roads, and Patents

image11Dean Baker, Op-Ed: It’s budget time, again. This means that the deficit hawks will be out in force warning us about the devastating debt burden that we are passing on to our children. So that this Halloween fright gang doesn’t needlessly cause any kids to lose sleep, here’s what parents can tell their children. First, it is important to tell your kids that the national debt is not in any way a measure of intergenerational transfers from the young to the old. Debt is also an asset to the people who own the bonds.

Meet the Obscure Federal Regulator Who’s Not Helping Homeowners

image04Cora Currier, News Analysis: Last week, ProPublica and NPR raised questions about a risky investment strategy at Freddie Mac that would pay off if homeowners stayed trapped in expensive mortgages. It’s just the latest example of how government-owned Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have frustrated many by not putting homeowners first. Fannie and Freddie are required to help homeowners while earning profits so they can pay back the taxpayers who bailed them out.

The Citizens United Catastrophe

image02E.J. Dionne Jr., Op-Ed: We have seen the world created by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and it doesn’t work. Oh, yes, it works nicely for the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country, especially if they want to shroud their efforts to influence politics behind shell corporations. It just doesn’t happen to work if you think we are a democracy and not a plutocracy.

Offshore Everywhere

image08Tom Engelhardt, Op-Ed: “Think of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden as a harbinger of and model for what’s to come. It was an operation enveloped in a cloak of secrecy. There was no consultation with the “ally” on whose territory the raid was to occur. It involved combat by an elite special operations unit backed by drones and other high-tech weaponry and supported by the CIA. A national boundary was crossed without either permission or any declaration of hostilities.”

Save the Babies

image09Jim Hightower, Op-Ed: “After 20 years of delay forced by lobbyists for utilities, the Environmental Protection Agency finally came out in December with regulations to control the mercury emissions from power plants. Hallelujah — save the babies! But wait, the lovers of the unborn aren’t celebrating this move to stop industry from doing gratuitous damage to children’s IQs. Far from it. GOP lawmakers are now howling to overturn the EPA’s mercury regulations.”

The Battle for Vermont’s Health

image10Wendell Potter, News Analysis: “Health insurers were not able to stop the state’s drive last year toward a single-payer health care system, which insurers have spent millions to scare Americans into believing would be the worst thing ever. Despite the ceaseless spin, Vermont lawmakers last May demonstrated they could not be bought nor intimidated when they became the first in the nation to pass a bill that will probably establish a single-payer beachhead in the U.S.”

California’s Gay Marriage Ban Ruled Unconstitutional – Again

image12Mike Ludwig, Truthout: “A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a federal judge’s ruling that California’s Proposition 8 ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, setting the stage for a potential Supreme Court showdown that could set a national precedent on same-sex marriage.”

Opponents of Proposition 8, a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, react after news of the ban being knocked down in court, outside the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, February 7, 2012. (Photo: Jim Wilson / The New York Times)

White House Office of Public Engagement Weekly Update

On Veterans Day, we recognized the service and sacrifice of our nation’s veterans. Ensuring our nation’s veterans get the opportunities they have earned is a top priority for President Obama, as well as for government agencies like the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Department of Transportation.  President Obama’s announcement of executive actions to help middle class families in this difficult economy included new initiatives to get Veterans back to work.

clip_image001 Leading veteran services organizations joined President Obama last week to announce their support for the Returning Heroes and Wounded Warrior Tax Credits, two provisions in the American Jobs Act. The President also announced a series of executive actions that will provide new resources for veterans and  help them translate military experience to the private sector job market: These initiatives include a Veterans Gold Card through the Department of Labor, which will provide the intensive and follow-up services veterans need to succeed in today’s job market, and the creation of a veterans job bank designed to put veterans in contact with companies that need their skills and are eager to hire them.

The President continued to take executive actions this week because we can’t wait for Congress to act. In addition to the actions for veterans, he signed an Executive Order to cut waste and promote efficient spending and announced new Head Start reforms that will strengthen the program and provide better education for our children.

Last Wednesday, The White House hosted more than 150 civic, academic, social, state and local leaders for the African-American Policy in Action Leadership Conference. President Barack Obama addressed the participants, acknowledging that black Americans have faced “enormous challenges” with unemployment, and appealed for their support in pursuing solutions that he can implement without help from Congress. President Obama went on to describe ways his Administration is working to address challenges facing the African American community.

Blog Highlights

We Can’t Wait to Invest in Our Infrastructure
November 4, 2011

John Robert Smith says we can’t wait to invest in our nation’s infrastructure. Smith, the former Republican Mayor of Meridian, Mississippi, and president of a coalition called Reconnecting America, believes that easy access to transportation is critical because it connects people to their communities and to resources like jobs, health care, education, and more. Plus, well-planned infrastructure links towns and cities with others, creating a vibrant network of connected communities.

Dr. Jill Biden Addresses the 2011 PFLAG National Convention
November 4, 2011

Dr. Jill Biden delivered a passionate and powerful address at the Opening Ceremony of the 2011 National Convention of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) last week. As an educator and parent, Dr. Biden knows firsthand the importance of family support in providing a safe school and community, and understands the challenges that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender young people face. Along with the President, Vice President, and First Lady, Dr. Biden has been a part of a team that has made safety and security for LGBT people a priority.

Read Dr. Biden’s full remarks as prepared and watch “It Gets Better” messages from the President, Vice President, and other members of the Administration
Progress at the G-20
November 4, 2011

World leaders gathered last week in France to discuss the global economy and necessary action for recovery from the recession. The debt crisis in Europe has put stress on the continent’s banking system, and countries like Greece and Italy are struggling to restore fiscal order. To counter these threats, the G20 leaders in France pledged to coordinate actions and policies to reinvigorate the global economy through job creation. The United States pledged to deliver a timely implementation of a package of near-term measures to sustain the recovery, through public investments, tax reforms, and targeted jobs measures, consistent with a credible plan for medium-term fiscal consolidation.

Vice President Biden Talks College Affordability in Pennsylvania
November 4, 2011

On Friday November 4th, Vice President Biden spoke to a group of students at the University of Pittsburgh and focused on the President’s initiative to cap student loan payments. Last year, following a recommendation from the Middle Class Task Force, the President proposed, and Congress enacted, a plan to lower payments even further starting in 2014, but many students can’t wait until 2014 for relief. In an executive action announced last week, federal loan payments will be capped at 10% of discretionary income and the forgiveness timeline will be shortened to 20 years starting next year. You can learn more about our plan to help students here.

By the Numbers: 500,000
November 7, 2011

President Obama believes that no veteran should have to fight for a job after fighting for our nation overseas. That’s why he’s introduced a host of new tools to help connect veterans to jobs in the civilian workforce, including the Veterans Job Bank, which has more than 500,000 job listings from private sector employers looking to hire vets.

By the Numbers: $3.5 Billion

By the Numbers: $500 Million

White House Champions of Change Program
The Champions of Change series is designed for people to look into their communities and nominate everyday heroes who are demonstrating commitment to improving their own communities, their country, or their fellow citizens. That is why we are looking for you to nominate someone who is doing extraordinary things to make a difference in your community as a “Champion of Change.”

In honor of Veterans Day, the White House recognized six individuals as Champions of Change who are committed to helping veterans and military families. These individuals represent organizations and businesses who are working to improve the lives of veterans and military families by providing vital services or jobs to veterans. Watch the video from the Champions of Change discussion with White House and Joining Forces officials which focused on how these individuals were able to provide such critical services and jobs to our veterans and military veterans. Take a moment to learn more about Champions of Change or nominate Champion in your own community.

Get Involved
Get involved in the Holiday Mail for Heroes program, run by the American Red Cross and Pitney Bowes. This program, now in its fifth year, encourages all of us to send a holiday card to a service member this season. Making a card is a simple act of kindness that means the world to our soldiers and their families. Check out more information about how to get involved.

For more information about ways to get involved now, check out the Office of Public Engagement’s blog, which is updated daily with upcoming engagement opportunities. Take some time browse our Engage webpage, or email for more information. Also check out for opportunities to personalize your long-term service.

For the latest updates, follow Jon Carson, the Director of the Office of Public Engagement on Twitter: JonCarson44.

Get Updates
For more information, visit the White House Office of Public Engagement website and blog and sign up for additional opportunities.  We welcome your thoughts and feedback at

Head Start Announces New Rule

November 8, 2011
White House Press Secretary

HHS has announced a new rule requiring Head Start program grantees to compete for funding. Over the next three years, all 1,600 grantees will be evaluated on benchmarks including health standards, integrity, and classroom quality. The new rule goes into effect December 8, 2011.

Learn more about the new Head Start regulation.


We Can’t Wait: President Obama Takes Action to Improve Quality
and Promote Accountability in Head Start Programs

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the President will announce important steps to improve the quality of services and accountability at Head Start centers across the country.  The Department of Health and Human Services will implement new rules that will – for the first time – require all low-performing Head Start grantees that fail to meet a new set of rigorous benchmarks to re-compete for continued federal funding.

This reform will help direct taxpayer dollars to programs that provide high-quality Head Start services and ensure Head Start programs provide the best available early education services to children in every community. Today’s announcement is part of a series of actions President Obama has taken because America’s children only get one chance and can’t wait for help getting a world-class education.

“We can’t wait to give more of our youngest children the same basic opportunities we all want for our kids. That’s why today, I’m announcing a new rule that will increase the quality of Head Start programs around the country,” President Obama said. “After trying for months to work with Congress on education, we’ve decided to take matters into our own hands.  Our future is at stake.  Our children deserve action.  And we can’t wait for Congress any longer.”

“With this new rule we are introducing unprecedented accountability in the Head Start program,” said U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. “Head Start has a critical mission – to help children from low-income families achieve their full potential and, in turn, help our country build tomorrow’s workforce.  It is a top priority for the Obama Administration to ensure that the program fulfills that mission by holding programs to high standards for classroom quality and program integrity. We owe Head Start children the highest quality services available to prepare them for school and for life.”

Head Start provides grants to local organizations to provide comprehensive child development services to low-income children and families. Today, there are nearly1,600 Head Start and Early Head Start grantees across the country providing early learning services to nearly one million of our nation’s most vulnerable infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

This reform in Head Start builds on bipartisan policies enacted in the most recent revision of the Head Start legislation in 2007.  The rules were crafted by the Obama Administration with extensive input from a national advisory committee, parents, educators, child development experts and the public.  The new quality benchmarks are transparent, research-based, and include standards for health and safety, and fiscal integrity. They will measure Head Start classroom quality based on a rigorous, validated evaluation tool to determine which programs are – and are not  – providing high-quality services.

Over the next three years, the Department of Health and Human Services will review the performance and program quality of all Head Start grantees.  Those that don’t meet the quality benchmarks will be required to compete for continued funding.

The new benchmarks mandate that any low-performing Head Start grantee will have to compete for funding if they have deficiencies discovered in their onsite review, fail to establish and use school-readiness goals for children, or demonstrate low performance in the classroom quality evaluation. In addition, grantees will also be required to compete for federal funding if their state and local licensing has been revoked, a Head Start grant has been suspended or if fiscal or management issues prevent them from properly manage federal funds.

Based on analysis of current program performance data, it is estimated that one-third of all grantees will be required to re-compete for continued funding under this new rule.  HHS will notify the first group of Head Start grantees that will be required to compete for continued funding in December 2011.

Going forward, all Head Start grants will be converted to five-year grants and each program’s performance and quality will be evaluated every five years to determine whether the grantee meets the benchmarks or must compete to receive another grant.

Head Start is administered by the Office of Head Start in the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Strengthening Head Start

Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, President Obama invested $2.1 billion in Head Start and Early Head Start, expanding these programs to reach an additional 61,000 children and families. The President has also made reform of the Head Start program a high priority, and has committed to ensuring that every Head Start center provides a high-quality environment.  While the majority of Head Start programs provide quality services to children and families, we need to ensure that children receive the full support needed to begin school ready for success.

Head Start is widely recognized for its comprehensive approach – programs promote early literacy and numeracy, while supporting good nutrition habits, physical activity, and positive social and emotional development. The rule announced today is an essential part of the Obama Administration’s strategy to strengthen Head Start and to raise the bar on quality, particularly for lower performing programs.

The Obama Administration has taken additional steps to improve quality in Head Start programs, including:

  • Evaluating Teacher-Child Interactions in Head Start Classrooms.  Head Start program serving preschoolers have been evaluated using the CLASS: Pre-K tool since 2009.  This assessment is not only important for identifying programs for competition; it is designed to be used by programs to identify areas in need of improvement so they can target their efforts where they are most needed.  Rigorous research has shown that the CLASS: Pre-K is linked to important child outcomes, such as academic achievement and behavior.
  • Improved Training and Assistance in Head Start Programs. The Obama Administration’s new network of evidence-based training will prepare Head Start classrooms around the country to undertake continuous improvements in their program.  Those who participate in these services can improve their programs so they are less likely to meet the criteria for competition.
  • Head Start Centers of Excellence. Twenty centers have been selected by the Obama Administration for distinction as a Head Start Center of Excellence, based on the quality of their program. These Head Start Centers are producing positive, measurable outcomes related to school readiness for children; supporting families; and increasing staff competence.  Information about their approaches and models of service will be disseminated to other Head Start and early childhood programs across the country to guide other grantees on a path to excellence.
  • Mentorship Across Head Start Programs. More than 125 grantees were selected for a 17 month pilot that pairs Head Start programs with mentors who have the expertise to help them improve the quality of their programs.  Selected grantees have proposed a variety of models that include on-site mentoring and distance mentoring through the use of technology.

Promoting School Readiness for America’s Children

The years prior to kindergarten are among the most significant in shaping a child’s foundation for learning and school success. Today’s announcement builds on a comprehensive early learning agenda to help provide the support needed for children to succeed in school and in life:

  • President Obama’s Race to the Top: Early Learning Challenge is a first-of-its-kind competition that will provide $500 million to winning states to bring innovation and quality improvement to all early learning programs, including Head Start, public pre-K, child care, and private preschools to close the achievement gap between low-income children and their peers. The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge focuses on outcomes and results in early learning, challenging governors to develop new approaches to raising the bar across state early learning settings to adopt rigorous standards across programs; undertake efforts to improve the early education workforce; and ensure that more children enter kindergarten ready for success.
  • President Obama’s call to strengthen our nation’s child care providers was presented in the FY 2012 budget, including principles for reauthorization of the child care subsidy system which serves 1.6 million low-income children and families each month.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act invested $2 billion in the Child Care and Development Fund, to support child care assistance and quality improvements. The Administration is working with State partners to raise the level of quality in child care programs by developing systems that set standards for quality, provide parents with information about the quality of child care programs, and provide pathways for providers to meet higher standards.
  • The Affordable Care Act provided $1.5 billion over 5 years in funding for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, which relies on evidence-based home visiting strategies that help families create a nurturing environment for young children. President Obama recognizes the importance of promoting healthy development and improving maternal and child health outcomes in the early years.  This program connects families to a range of services – including health, early education, early intervention and more – in order to better ensure that children are healthy and prepared for school and life.  Effective home visiting programs can have powerful positive impacts on maternal and child health, child maltreatment, parenting skills, children’s cognitive, language, and social-emotional development, and school readiness.