U.S. Sen. John Kerry accepts a painting created by the class of Nashaun Jackson, 3, at ABCD South End Head Start where he spoke out against budget cuts to Head Start, Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) and community action programs nationwide. With the senator are ABCD President and CEO John J. Drew (l) and ABCD Executive Vice President Sharon Scott-Chandler. (Photo courtesy of ABCD)
Sen. John Kerry faulted Republicans Monday for pushing cuts to the Head Start program, saying the nation’s budget shouldn’t be balanced on the backs of those who rely on critical social service programs.
Kerry said he was angry and frustrated with the proposed cuts, which he said are shortsighted and ideologically driven. He said he understands spending needs to be reduced but cuts have to be made fairly.
“We can do it in a way that is responsible, in a way that invests in the future and in a way that is fair in how we distribute the pain,” he said. “What has happened in Washington in the last few weeks is an insult to the concept of fairness and commonsense.”
The Massachusetts Democrat made the comments after touring a Head Start center in the South End neighborhood of Boston. Head Start provides educational, nutritional and health services to younger children to help prepare them to begin attending school.
Republicans say dramatic spending cuts are needed to balance the federal budget. The GOP-led House approved a 20 percent cut to Head Start.
Kerry said it was “unconscionable” for House Republicans to push through big cuts to social programs without also considering cuts for defense spending or entitlement programs like Social Security or Medicaid.
“I’m frankly appalled by the kind of discussion that is taking place in Washington,” Kerry said. “We are going to fight this in the Senate.”
MiShy Sibly, who has two young sons in the Head Start program, said the community would be devastated by the proposed cuts in funding. She said Head Start not only helps young children, but programs like it help connect teens with jobs during the summer.
Without those jobs, she said, those teens could end up getting into trouble.
“They will be on the streets. There will be nothing for them to do and crime will go up,” said Sibly, 30, who lives in the city’s Mattapan neighborhood.
Sheryl Traynham is a teaching assistant at the Head Start center and relied on the program to help prepare her daughter for school. Her daughter went on to study nursing at the University of Massachusetts.
“I’m a product of Head Start,” said Traynham, 48. “It has opened my eyes.”
Republican Sen. Scott Brown’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Head Start cuts.
The popular national program is designed to promote school readiness by “enhancing the social and cognitive development of children through the provision of educational, health, nutritional, social and other services to enrolled children and families,” according to the federal Department of Health and Human Service’s website.
Supporters say the 20 percent cut will eliminate 218,000 children from the program and force 55,000 layoffs nationally.
In Massachusetts, that translates into about 2,900 children and 900 lost jobs.
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