STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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This special reporting project wrapped up in May 2017. Read more.

Throwing pre-schoolers over the 'fiscal cliff'

Dustin Dwyer

You've been hearing about it. I've been hearing about it. We're all sick of hearing about it. 

We wouldn't even be talking about a "fiscal cliff" if lawmakers in Washington had been able to reach a real compromise on raising the debt ceiling last summer. Or if the congressional "supercommittee" had come to an agreementlast fall

You can read the doom and gloom predictions of what might happen  if lawmakers don't reach a deal on avoiding the "fiscal cliff" before the end of the year. If you want details, you can read the White House report on exactly what will get cut from the federal budget. You can also read a primer from the Tax Policy Center on how it will affect your taxes

You could spend every waking hour reading up on this manufactured crisis, but do you really want to? Me neither. 

But here's one thing that caught our attention at State of Opportunity: 

Preschoolers are among the hostages in this budget fight. 

According to a report put out by Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, Head Start would lost over $600 million in funding if Congress fails to reach a deal before the end of the year. Those cuts would mean that 96,169 low-income kids would lose an opportunity to go to preschool. More than 20,000 people who work in Head Start would lose their jobs. 

In Michigan alone, Harkin projects close to $21 million in cuts, with 3,364 fewer low-income kids in preschool and 701 Head Start workers out of a job. 

Less than half of Michigan's three and four year olds go to preschool in our current system. The fiscal cliff would make things worse. 

The good news is, members of Congress are finally starting to sound reasonable about this whole budget mess. 

But, deal or no deal, many programs will still take a cut when this thing is over. 

Should Head Start be one of those programs? 

Dustin Dwyer is a reporter on the State of Opportunity project, based in Grand Rapids. Previously, he worked as an online journalist for Changing Gears, as a freelance reporter and as Michigan Radio's West Michigan Reporter. Before he joined Michigan Radio, Dustin interned at NPR's Talk of the Nation, wrote freelance stories for The Jackson Citizen-Patriot and completed a Reporting & Writing Fellowship at the Poynter Institute.
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