Congress is on the brink of another deadline, this time to avoid automatic spending cuts, but lawmakers in Washington have yet to act.
On February 28th, the senate voted on rival Democratic and Republican plans to replace the spending cuts, but both bills failed as expected. 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.
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 Dr.
Jacquelyn Jenkins of Orange County Head Start.
But unless lawmakers act, there will be big funding cuts to the programs. According to the White House, services for 2,700 Florida children would have to be cut.
But Jenkins is doing everything she can to not 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.
If you'd like to more information about helping Head Start, see: http://orangecountyfl.net/FamiliesHealthSocialSvcs/EarlyEducationPreschool.aspx
You can also call the 2100 E. Michigan Street main office in Orlando at 407-836-6590
Link to Head Start's National Program here: http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc