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Judge Greg Mathis
Published: 24 March 2011

After being urged by President Obama to invest in our nation's students, you would think our federal lawmakers would do anything they could to preserve a program that sets the foundation for a lifetime of achievement, right? Wrong. Once again, Republicans are moving to cut a program that helps average Americans and, in this case, specifically the poor.

The Head Start Program is yet another social program the Republican Party has targeted for major cuts. Head Start provides educational and health services to low income children and their families. Head Start has been one of the most studied early education programs since it began more than 40 years ago. The program has proven itself to be one of the United States' most successful social experiments and an efficient use of taxpayer dollars. Research shows students who complete Head Start do better both socially and academically and are less likely to drop out of high school.

Yet, Republicans want to cut the program by more than 22-percent. They say Head Start isn't as effective as supporters claim. To be fair, some studies show that achievement levels of some Head Start attendees start to drop off after first grade.

However, this could speak to the quality of the school they enroll in after the program. Additionally, the program's opponents say too much money is spent maintaining the program and not enough on enrolling new students.

It's not clear if the Republican Party is against poor people, working mothers, low income children or all three. All of the cuts it's leaders have moved to make have been to programs the support and empower the poor. If they are successful in taking away the building blocks that many have used to create a foundation for future success, America's middle class will continue to shrink and the number of families living below the poverty line will increase.

If the Republicans were serious about balancing the budget they'd take a look at programs with inflated and misappropriated budgets, starting with the military. Sure, it's critical that the U.S. has a strong military in place but studies have shown that program is rife with wasteful spending. It's not the only area where money is either being wasted or being misused. A good, honest budget scrub will show the Republicans – and Democrats – just which programs can handle significant cuts.

If you believe in the power of Head Start and can testify to how it helped a child – past or present – in your life, call your elected officials. Let them know that they absolutely cannot cut Head Start. Our children's – and our nation's – success depends on it.

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The Skanner Foundation's 38th Annual MLK Breakfast