WASHINGTON, DC—Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) spoke before the House of Representatives this afternoon against the latest cynical gimmick by House Republicans to fund the government in a piecemeal fashion. Her remarks follow and the video can be viewed here.
“The government of the United States of America has now been closed for a full week. People are out of work and some are even going hungry. Our economy is poised on the brink of a disastrous default. And yet this Majority continues to play political games with the future of our country and the lives and health of American families.
“The hostage being negotiated over today is Head Start – one of the true American success stories, and unquestionably the most effective early childhood development program ever developed. I’ve heard so often from my colleagues about how unsuccessful a program it is, but for almost 50 years now, Head Start has provided comprehensive child development, literacy, and family services to nearly 30 million preschoolers from low-income and working families. It now serves nearly one million children every year.
“Head Start is an example of how dedicated teachers, with the help of smart federal investment, can truly enrich the lives of our citizens. It is a cornerstone of our efforts to close the achievement gap, combat poverty, and provide all kids with opportunities to thrive. It is another important federal program that Republicans are claiming to support today, in full defiance of their previous voting record. It is as if the Majority expects that we have all forgotten the positions they have been promoting for years up to this point.
“We have not forgotten. I am the Ranking Member of the subcommittee that oversees Head Start funding. I have continually had to fight tooth and nail to see this program adequately funded, and to protect it from the deep cuts put forward by the Majority. In 2011, the very first bill the Republican Majority passed tried to cut Head Start by over a billion dollars. If that budget had become law, 218,000 kids would have been cut from the rolls, over 16,000 classrooms would have closed, and 55,000 teachers, assistants, and staff would have lost their jobs. That was this Majority’s opening offer and they didn’t blink an eye.
“Parents, teachers, and advocates stood up and decried these cuts and the Majority had to back down then. Instead, they are trying to let the deep automatic cuts caused by sequestration, which were never meant to become law, do their work for them. Because of those cuts, which this Majority has voted to make permanent, 57,000 students all across America have already lost access to Head Start. Even the children who are able to remain in Head Start can expect shortened school days, elimination of home visits, and teacher layoffs. In total, 78,000 children have lost access to this early learning since this House Majority took office. And those sequester cuts will grow worse over time.
“Because of this self-inflicted government shutdown, Head Start centers are being forced to close their doors. The longer the Majority perpetuates this shutdown, the more kids will be denied an opportunity to learn. I am happy to see my colleagues on the other side of the aisle embrace the importance of early childhood education. President Obama has called for universal preschool and expanded early childhood education, which would make a profound positive difference for children and families across the country. But the Republican Majority has turned its back on that proposal and walked away from it.
“Let’s stop playing games with the lives, health, and future of Americans. It is little wonder that, according to the latest polls, a full 70 percent of the country opposes this hostage-taking, and wants us to get back to work.”