Head Start funding cut

White House numbers released Monday estimate more than 1,400 children in Louisiana have lost access to early childhood education through the Head Start program because of mandated federal spending cuts.

An updated number from the federal Head Start office estimates 1,435 children in the state and 57,265 nationally had their slots cut for the pre-kindergarten education program this fall because of the ongoing federal budget cuts, called the sequester.

In February, the White House contended the sequester could mean roughly $26 million in education cuts in Louisiana, equating to fewer teachers and less special-education resources.

But that did not include an estimated $9 million cut in Head Start programs in Louisiana, meaning a loss of about 1,400 fewer Head Start early childhood education slots for youngsters.

The updated numbers released Monday mesh with the original estimates.

The sequester cuts came as a compromise in 2011 when House Republicans forced a standoff over the federal debt ceiling in a fight that could have forced the federal government to default on its payments.

Sequestration — a White House idea approved by Congress — was set up as a poison pill to force compromise, which never came. The cuts were supposed to go into effect on Jan. 1, but the fiscal cliff compromise on New Year’s Day delayed the cuts until March 1.

Congress remains mired in gridlock over how to address federal spending and how to either undo sequestration or to apply the budget cuts in more practical ways.

Both the GOP-led House and Democrat-controlled Senate have approved their versions of federal budget proposals, but the plans are far enough apart that compromise has not yet entered the picture.

Senate Republicans are blocking a budget conference committee from being formed that would try to reach compromise agreement between the two budget bills.