More than 200,000 children nationwide could be denied the academic boost they receive from the federally-funded Head Start program if a budget plan proposed by Representative Paul Ryan is passed. The Wisconsin Republican, who is chairman of the House Budget Committee, has proposed a budget cut that could have a major impact on Head Start enrollment as early as 2014. If approved, 2 million children in Ohio and across the country could be negatively headstartimpacted over the next decade, according to National Education Association estimates.

Horizon Education Centers participates in the Head Start program, offering half-day preschool programs for children ages 3 to 5 in collaboration with the Lorain County Community Action Agency. Head Start programs are offered at all four Lorain County Horizon Centers. Head Start is a federally-funded program that prepares low-income children to succeed socially and academically when they enter kindergarten.

Multiple research studies have shown that pre-kindergarten education and child care not only help low-income children succeed academically, but giving children the skills to succeed in school can help break the cycle of poverty. According to economist James Heckman, a 2000 Nobel Prize winner, when program graduates enter the work force the U.S. economy gains $7 to $9 for every dollar invested in Head Start.

As Congress struggles to pare down budget deficits, Washington watchers feel it is unlikely that the Ryan budget proposal will stand; but they are equally pessimistic about the potential passage of a counter proposal to expand Head Start introduced by Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa democrat.