JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union address money invested in early education will pay off down the road. But impending drastic budget cuts and possible sequestration could mean a huge hit for a program that's designed to help low-income families get their kids ready for school.
"I really need this program," said single mother Kristina Eutsey. Eutsey has two boys and a third child on the way. Money is tight and she relies on the Head Start program to help her kids get ready for school.
"The teachers are really nice. They talk to you, pinball exactly what needs to be done and everything, they talk to you about it let you know how you can help," she said.
Her son Jacoby Peoples is now in third grade. He says he learned a lot coming to Head Start. "They used to teach me stuff in math and science," said Peoples.
But on March 1, Head Start could lose $400 million in funding. Nation wide 70,000 kids will be turned away, including many right here in Jacksonville.
"If there's any way we could avoid cutting it that would be critical," said Trey Csar, President of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund.
It's a terrifying possibility for Csar. He says without Head Start, local kids will fall behind.
"Any type of early education kids who go through at preschool do substantially better when they get into elementary school and that's critically important," he said.
And for moms like Eutsey, that's not a reality she wants for her children or herself. "That'll help me get back to work and everyone will be in school and learning something so I can go to work."
Folks with the Public Education Fund just hope if Head Start is cut, Jacksonville can come up with another way to get local kids the early education they need.
Right now Jacksonville leaders aren't sure how many cuts our area will see or how many Head Start centers may need to close.