Rand considered cutting full-time employees to 35 hours a week, with three of those hours lost by closing the program early on Fridays. But that would have hurt client families, Rand said, and Head Start staffers said they would rather lose retirement money than take-home pay.

“So many of them are living paycheck to paycheck, they see it as the lesser of two evils,” she said.

To help cover the rest of the deficit, Rand is eliminating staff training and reducing contracted cleaning service from three days a week to two. Employees will have to pick up the slack.

So Head Start workers, who typically earn less than median wage, will have less income in their old age—also not a “theoretical” cut and one that may add to taxpayer burdens when those Head Start staffers are too old to work.

The Big Five papers should be leading the way on this important, evolving story. Here’s hoping there’s some strong coverage in the works.

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David Cay Johnston covers fiscal and budget matters for CJR’s United States Project. He is a reporter with 46 years of experience, including 13 at The New York Times; a columnist for Tax Analysts; teaches tax and regulatory law at Syracuse University Law School; and is president of Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE). Follow him on Twitter @DavidCayJ.