Florida Head Start programs could lose millions of dollars in funding



ORLANDO, Fla. - Congress is on the brink of another deadline, this time to avoid automatic spending cuts, but lawmakers in Washington have yet to act.

On Thursday, the senate voted on rival Democratic and Republican plans to replace the spending cuts, but both bills failed as expected, and a meeting between President Barack Obama and top lawmakers isn't scheduled until Friday.

Unless lawmakers act soon, millions of dollars will be cut from Florida's Head Start programs, which would eliminate services for thousands of Florida children, according to the White House.

Channel 9's Lori Brown asked if Orange County's enrollment would have to be cut.

In Orange County, there more than 1,500 children are in Head Start programs, where the children are already learning their alphabet and how to count.

"It's amazing listening to him develop so much in the few months he's been in school," said mother Brittany Miller.

Head Start began 40 years ago to give kids in low-income neighborhoods the same opportunities as those in middle class neighborhoods, from education to health care.

"It supports the family in helping them understand they are their child's first teachers," said Jacquelyn Jenkins of Orange County Head Start.

But unless lawmakers act, there will be big funding cuts the programs.

According to the White House, services for 2,700 Florida children would have to be cut.

But Jenkins said she won't let that happen in Orange County.

"This is our future that we are investing in," she said.

Jenkins said she hopes community partners will step up to fill in the potential $720,000 gap so children can keep attending Head Start.

"There is no way we would be able to afford anything else," said Miller.

The sequester would also cut $54 million from public schools in Florida, but Orange and Osceola counties said they would still find a way to provide services for all children.

Seminole County said it may have to make cuts to some services and supplemental instructional materials. The districts said it is too early to determine if any layoffs would be necessary.