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Debt Deal May Force Head Start Cuts, Advocates Warn

Though Head Start advocates turned a proposed $1.2 million cut into a $350 million increase in the fiscal 2011 budget, they are gearing up for a new fight in the wake of the federal debt ceiling compromise.

On Aug. 3, Yasmina Vinci, National Head Start Association director, released a letter to supporters suggesting that a worst-case fiscal 2012 scenario could leave 320,000 children— a third of the program's current capacity—without services. The organization's initial analysis of the deal says that "Head Start is vulnerable, and we will be facing a significant uphill battle to prevent devastating cuts." However, the analysis also finds a bit of silver lining in the Pell Grant increase (because Head Start money comes from the same bill) and the push to cut immediate discretionary expenditures (because that leaves a bit more room for spending in fiscal 2012, including on Head Start).

However, it's unclear yet what the debt deal will mean for early education, K-12 education, or any other non-defense-related federal spending. As my colleague Michele McNeil notes at Politics K-12, all we know for sure right now is that the pie—federal discretionary spending on everything other than the military—has gotten smaller.

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