HYATTSVILLE, MD (WUSA9) -- On Wednesday, the President and Congress unveiled a statue to Rosa Parks. On Friday, they take money away from needy kids at Rosa Parks Elementary.
President Obama pushed universal pre-K education in his state of the union, but one of the programs taking a big hit under sequestration will be Head Start, which offers pre-school classes to low-income children.
Educators at Rosa Parks say Head Start has made a huge difference. "Many of these Head Start children, when they come to Rosa Parks, they don't know any English," says principal Tara Minter. "And to see them progress throughout the year to master the language, is really amazing."
But school officials fear across the board sequestration budget cuts threaten that progress. "Don't set us back," says Debra Mahone, who runs federal Title 1 programs for Prince George's Schools, don't "pull the rug out from under children who really need that support."
Title 1 provides federal money to give extra teachers and extra schooling to children from low-income families. County school leaders suspect it will lose about $2,000,000. They promise to protect classrooms, but they are worried.
The numbers are still pretty squishy, and some Republicans say the White House is exaggerating, but the Obama Administration says that in Maryland, some 800 children will be kicked out of Head Start. Some 200 teachers and teacher's aides could lose their jobs.
Ninety-four percent of the children at Rosa Parks qualify for free or reduced price meals. Seventy-five percent are learning English as a second language. But educators say Head Start helps them catch up with other kids. "And if we can't close that gap before they reach our classrooms," says Mahone, "then they will always be falling behind."