TULSA - A White House report detailing the impact of the sequester on Oklahoma includes a forecast that funding cuts to education services would leave out 800 Oklahoma children.
The gridlock in Washington highlighted by a blame game between the president and Congress over a budget agreement is something Community Action Project Tulsa has been closely watching.
Among CAP's many initiatives is its own Head Start program, which takes places at 13 different facilities within the Tulsa area, serves 2,500 children and employs more than 400 teachers, aids and assistants.
Steven Dow, executive director for Community Action Project Tulsa, said his organization has planned for the sequester for quite some time. In addition to relying on federal and state funds to operate their head start programs and other initiatives, they also receive money from philanthropic organizations like United Way and the George Kaiser Family Foundation.
"We decided and made the internal decision that we were going to budget in such a way that even if the federal funds got cut, we would not be in a position where we would have to reduce services to either children or reduce our staff in any way," he said.
That's welcome news for Maria Munoz, a parent in CAP's Head Start program and a teacher at Eastgate Early Childhood Education Center, run by CAP.
Munoz's son and daughter participated in the program. Her daughter's success could be measured before entering elementary school. She scored a 59 out of 60 in her pre-enrollment assessment.
"She started when she was a year and a half old and also she used aftercare here. She used everything here and she right now is at the top of her class in her pre-school class at regular school. I feel very thankful. It really does help. It does make a difference," Munoz said.
Her son, who was born pre-mature and battles frequent illness, is currently at Eastgate. In addition to monitoring his health and administering his medicine, Munoz said educators there have helped to improve his speech.
"He's delayed a little in speech, and I'm thankful that he's here because [Tulsa Public Schools] does work with him. CAP provides him other outside help for him. We also have people from CAP that come from the disabilities department and pull him out every now and then and work with him one on one, so I'm very thankful," she said.
In her four years as a teacher assistant at Eastgate, Muoz said she's seen the impact Head Start can have in children who come to her classroom with no prior learning.
"I also see the children that come in later on who have not been in school before. The parents also worry because they come in late and their like, "Wow. The other children can write their names. The other children know how to count. My child doesn't know anything." But that's what we're here for. We're here to help them advance."
While CAP's finances are in order now, Dow does admit that there is worry about the future.
"We are most certainly concerned about the long-term situation, and I think that, you know, what we feel very strongly about is that across-the-board spending cuts are not in the national best interest," Dow said.
If the president and Congress can't reach a budget compromise by Friday, March 1, the sequester will go into effect and $85 billion in cuts will be made.
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