But Head Start officials warn this doesn't mean children aren't being affected by the cuts: The low-income children who qualify for Head Start also benefit from a slew of health and family programs as well as services designed to make those benefits more accessible — like transportation. None of that will be available to children who are booted out of Head Start, even if they find a place in a state-funded preschool classroom.
Stephen Smith, director of the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, said county school systems are making efforts to accommodate the students who lost access to Head Start this year but warned that they won't be able to weather much more lost funding.
"When I think of the sequester, I think of it as a big, fat bully. It picks on the most vulnerable," he said. "And who does it pick on most? Our kids who are poor and disabled. That's what Head Start is."
For an answer, he pointed to two pieces of legislation that have already been introduced — one in the House of Representatives and another in the Senate.
"We need congressional action," he said, and he asked community members to lobby their lawmakers to support that legislation.
Secretary of State Natalie Tennant called the funding cuts "unbelievable" and said she is doing what she can to lobby for legislation to prevent future cuts.
"I understand there are times we need to cut spending, but are we going to do it on the backs of our children?" she said. "When we talk about this, nobody likes it — Republicans don't like it, Democrats don't like it. But who's falling through the cracks? Our children."
Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.ma...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4886.