Crucial early education program badly hurt by federal cuts

(CBS News) HAVERSTRAW, New York - It's been four months since the start of "sequestration" -- the mandatory federal budget cuts.

Apart from the fight to keep funding the air traffic controllers, we have not heard much about the impact elsewhere. But some parents who have kids enrolled in Head Start programs say that should change.

Tara Gales
Tara Gales CBS News

Every weekday morning, Tara Gales drops off her five-year-old son, Elias, at Head Start of Rockland County, north of New York City.

"Elias's speech has gotten better," Tara said. "He's got his ABCs, his colors, his shapes, everything."

Gales is a single mother who works for Meals on Wheels delivering prepared food to the elderly in their homes.

Gales can't rely on Head Start to care for her son this summer.

Head Start had a budget of $8 billion this year, but under the sequester, it lost $400 million. Now, in all 50 states, every Head Start program has been told to cut costs by five percent.

Tara Gales and her son.
Tara Gales and her son. CBS News

"It's a hard hit for our program," said Ouida Toutebon, executive director of Head Start of Rockland County.

Ouida has had to cancel the summer program that serves 300 children entering kindergarten this fall.

"This program is so meaningful, to cut it is almost cruel," Ouida said.

Without Head Start, Elias will have to tag along with his mother to her job.

"I can't afford day camp," Tara said. "I am going to take Elias with me, and he is going to learn the value of working and respecting people and of giving back to the a young age."

At his Head Start site this summer, staff will see salaries cut in half, and teachers will be laid off.

"I'm wondering why they're cutting our children's education," Tara said.

When Elias' classes end this week, the classrooms will go quiet until September.