Head Start Funds Need Protection, Expansion Amid U.S. Budget Wars

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To the Editor:

The government shutdown last October resulted in the closure of approximately 20 Head Start programs, according to The Washington Post. This tough hit took place after 57,000 spots were eliminated because of the sequester and budgetary constraints ("Head Start Releases Sequestration Cuts by State", Early Years blog, Aug. 19, 2013).

Head Start is a vital program that provides health, nutrition, and pre-K education services to children from low-income families. The demand for these services far outpaces capacity. The training that children receive in these programs helps keep students on par with their peers from higher-income backgrounds as they enter kindergarten, and helps improve their odds of success throughout their school years. Yet the families most in need of such government support are those that become collateral damage in the budget wars.

This most recent setback faced by the Head Start program serves to further highlight persistent funding issues with the program that have resulted in inconsistent quality of services rendered. The average pay of a Head Start teacher lags far behind the compensation of a K-12 teacher, despite the program's potential to equip students for success in kindergarten and beyond.

Properly funded Head Start programs will help attract qualified teachers and equip young students for personal success and lives as productive citizens. We need to fight to prevent Head Start from perpetually becoming collateral damage in the budget wars and instead agitate toward change in Congress to fully fund this program.

We must also raise awareness about the needs of low-income pre-K students and the potential that such intervention has for changing the course of their lives. This must be exposed as a central issue in the debate over the potential cures for poverty, the education gap, and racial disparities in this nation.

Kristina Rochester
Washington, D.C.
The author is a student at the Georgetown University Law Center and a former corps member of Teach For America.

Vol. 33, Issue 21, Page 33

Published in Print: February 19, 2014, as Head Start Funds Need Protection, Expansion Amid U.S. Budget Wars
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