Washington is an incredibly scripted place where even the seemingly most off-the-cuff remarks are made with assured precision, which is why I found Shavon Collier’s testimony about early-childhood education today in front of the Senate Budget Committee refreshing.
Collier is not one of the usual Washington insiders. She’s a mom-—one who was struggling financially to the degree that her children qualified for Head Start.
Collier enrolled her son and daughter at the Edward C. Mazique Child Center in Washington—and brought her now 10-year-old daughter Sakhia, who graduated from there—to the session.
Sakhia is now on the honor roll at her current school—a success by many measures—as is her brother.
“Head Start has given me and my children an opportunity to build a better life, and I am so grateful for it,” she told senators. “The Mazique Center is in high demand because it is more than just a safe place for children while parents are at work... (The program) helped my children build social skills. My son, for example, was a bit withdrawn at the time, but after only a few months he was playing and interacting with his classmates.”
Having worked in D.C. for many years, I’m confident the National Head Start Association—which procured Collier—prepped her well and good for the session.
Still, her testimony humanizes the need and successes—of many.
Today, there are 200 children on the waiting list for the Mazique Center. Moreover, the sequestration has impacted scores of Head Start centers like it around the nation, shuttering programs in many places and placing 70,000 slots at risk.
While studies and the academics who corral them lend the big picture, folks like Collier and her daughter Shavon give numbers depth.
This committee, along with the House, will develop a budget plan that funds—or cuts—180 different programs for children.
Who do you think should testify as these committees proceed and why?
A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.