From the left; Delores Federico, Linda Van Dorp and Sharilyn Cano show their support for Head Start during a local take on the National 'Stroll-In' which was held in front of Representative Greg Walden office. Organizers are concerned about the effects a bill before Congress would have on the early learning program. Bob Pennell / Mail Tribune photo - Bob Pennell

Head Start supporters stage rally in Medford

About 75 people gathered in Medford early Wednesday afternoon to show local support for Head Start, whose federal funding is threatened with reduction by a cost-cutting Congress.

Gathered in front of the Southern Oregon office of U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, the crowd of Head Start supporters waved signs reading, "Invest in Children" and "Head Start Works."

The event was part of a nationwide "Stroll-In" in some 2,300 locations.

If the proposed $61 billion in cuts to discretionary spending already approved by the Republican majority in the House is given the nod by the Senate, the local impact would mean more than 150 slot cuts for children and the loss of at least 50 jobs in Jackson and Josephine counties alone, said Alan Berlin, executive director for the Southern Oregon Head Start.

"We wanted Representative Walden to know about the local impact," Berlin said, noting the cuts would directly impact low-income families.

The protesters made their point in a polite manner, he noted.

"We were graciously received by Walden's staff, and a lot of drivers beeped their horns in support," he added, reiterating, "We wanted Walden to know about the impact of these cuts. They would be devastating."

Walden was in Washington, D.C. but his spokesman Andrew Whelan said that cuts are necessary across the board, given the size of the government deficit, which is $1.6 trillion this year alone.

President Obama's budget, released on Feb. 14, proposes $400 billion in cuts over 10 years, including large cuts to energy assistance for low-income families and smaller cuts to senior housing programs.

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