Head Start will serve 57,265 fewer children this year in its programs for infants, toddlers and preschool-age children because of the 5.27 percent cut to the program handed down by the federal government in March.

California, the most populous state, lost more slots – 5,611 – than any other state. The California Head Start Association had previously predicted that 6,000 to 7,000 fewer students would be served this year. Texas was second, eliminating 4,410 children from its rolls after sequestration took effect.

To preserve the number of children served, Head Start programs across the country, including those in California, have laid off staff and shortened programs, according to the data released Monday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees Head Start. Nationally, 18,000 employees have either been let go or taken a pay cut, according to the new figures.

The Obama administration predicted that 70,000 children, or 5 percent of those served last year, would be denied services because of sequestration. The latest data shows that number was an exaggeration – though not by much, said Rick Mockler of the California Head Start Association.

“The biggest surprise is that there’s no surprise,” Mockler said.

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