Today the Senate Budget Committee held a hearing on the impact of budget decisions on children. Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) opened the hearing by saying there’s one group in particular whose voices are not often heard when it comes to the federal budget process – and that is our nation’s children. They may not be walking the halls of Congress, or calling up their Senators, or strategizing with lobbyists about how to protect funding for their programs. But they deserve a seat at the table. She stated that we cannot and should not solve our debt and deficit problems on the backs of our children. This is wrong for our kids and is not good economic policy.
Witnesses included Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus. He said since a peak in 2010 total federal spending on children has fallen by $35 billion, a 16 percent drop. Total spending for children has now fallen for three years in a row. First Focus compared the Senate budget to the House budget and found the Senate budget clearly places a much higher value on children and protecting investments critical to them.
Margaret Nimmo Crow is Acting Executive Director of Voices for Virginia’s Children. Her comments focused on the impact of decreasing budget revenues on children at the state level. In Virginia the number of children living in poverty has increased every year since 2005. She testified that in Virginia Head Start will cut 647 children this fall, as well as 112 jobs. In Prince George County, VA, 41 instructional, administrative and support personnel have been lost since 2009 while they have gained 150 new students.
Taking a much different perspective Dr. David Muhlhausen, Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, criticized federal funding for Head Start and other support programs. His research shows little evidence that they are providing positive results. His testimony offered a challenge to the Committee to make sure federal funds are spent in ways that can demonstrate positive results.
Shavon Collier is a Head Start parent who testified along with her daughter, Sakhia Whitehead, who is a Head Start alum. Their testimony was a positive account of their experiences with Head Start. Ms. Collier described how the program provided her children a strong academic foundation and an ability to focus. Ms. Whitehead testified how Head Start helped her prepare for kindergarten and to be on the Honor Roll in elementary school.