Head Start/Early Education
What happened then?
“Project Head Start” was launched by President Lyndon B. Johnson from the White House Rose Garden on May 18, 1965. Originally designed as an eight week summer demonstration project, Head Start has since grown to provide children from low-income families with access to comprehensive preschool programs to prepare them for kindergarten and a successful future.
Head Start has served more than 30 million children and their families in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. territories. Eligible children are from families earning below 100% of the federal poverty line ($24,250 for a family of four) or who have a disability. Programs also can serve up to 10% of children whose family income is between 100% and 130% of the federal poverty line. In addition to education, other services include health and dental screenings and check-ups.
The program is administered by HHS and directly supports local agencies delivering services.
Why it still matters?
Head Start is a key component of our national commitment to give every child, regardless of circumstances at birth, an opportunity to succeed in school and in life. Access to Head Start clearly improves children’s preschool outcomes across developmental domains on multiple measures. After just one year in Head Start, children showed gains in vocabulary, letter-word identification, mathematics and social-emotional development compared with peers. A December 2012 Health and Human Services (HHS) controlled study found that, by the end of 3rd grade, Head Start alumni:
- Were enrolled in schools that had better school facilities, lower staff turnover and more students scoring at the proficient or higher level on the state reading/language arts assessment;
- Had favorable social emotional development outcomes, as reported by parents;
- Had sustained favorable cognitive impacts for 3-year old Head Start children from high-risk households on reading and language arts skills; and
- Had favorable school experiences and social-emotional outcomes, as reported by teachers, parents and the child.
In addition, there is overwhelming evidence that shows Head Start children benefit from the program throughout their lives. Head Start alumni:
- Are more likely to finish high school and go on to college;
- Are more likely to be in good health; and
- Are less likely to commit crime.
What’s happening now?
Since sequestration went into effect in FY2013, nearly $600 million has been cut from Head Start, resulting in 57,000 children across the country losing their classroom slots.
Moreover, the Republican FY 2016 Budget cuts non-defense funding by $759 billion, and will result in Head Start serving 35,000 fewer children nationally. This is yet another example of the Republican attack on low-income working families and those trying to get into the middle-class.
What needs to happen moving forward?
Research shows that high-quality early education is one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life. But far too many disadvantaged children do not have access to these vital services. We must do more than just protect Head Start from reckless Republican budgetary cuts. We must also embrace the future by investing more in early childhood education and enacting universal pre-K.
Democrats strongly support the President’s initiative to expand Head Start services by investing $10.1 billion into the program for the FY2016 budget. Of the $1.5 billion increase over the current funding level, $1.1 billion will support all Head Start programs serving children all day for a full year, and $150 million will expand the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships.
Additionally, Democrats believe in universal preschool and know the importance of investing in proven programs that help families build pathways out of poverty. That is why Democrats also support legislation like the Pathways Out of Poverty Act, which strengthens and expands proven anti-poverty programs and initiatives, such as expanding early childhood education, extending the emergency unemployment compensation program, and improving the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program.
For more information on Head Start and how to apply, click here.
Additional information can be found at: http://democrats.edworkforce.house.gov/issue/early-childhood