Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Head Start program, a federal program launched as part of the War on Poverty. Now, amid new economic challenges, deeper divides of income inequality and a persistent cycle of poverty, policymakers are looking for effective solutions to address today’s obstacles facing America’s families. Mounting evidence points to quality early childhood education, like Head Start programs across the country, as being pivotal to helping children access a path out of poverty to one of success.

“Head Start was one of the first major federal initiatives aimed at ensuring that the most disadvantaged children have a better chance to succeed in school and in life,” said Kris Perry, executive director of the First Five Years Fund (FFYF). “The evidence shows that investments in quality early childhood education, particularly for low-income kids, are cost-effective and demonstrate a solid return on investment. As a nation, we have a responsibility to support and invest in programs that give all children a fair chance to meet their full potential.”

Today, there are more than 32 million Head Start alumni around the world. They have become doctors, lawyers, artists, business owners and military leaders, having been given a chance to achieve a healthy, successful life – despite their parents’ income.

According to a bipartisan poll conducted last July for the First Five Years Fund, American voters rank ensuring our children get a strong start in life as a top national priority, second only to increasing jobs and economic growth. In addition, 71 percent of Americans support a plan that will help states and local communities provide better early childhood education programs to children from birth to age five. And they want to invest now, even if it means increasing the deficit in the short term.

Early childhood education is truly an issue that transcends party lines and political ideology. Governors, mayors and state legislators from red and blue states have made clear their support for early childhood education with increased investments in access and quality. But they can’t do it alone. Head Start is an example of the impact federal-state partnerships in early learning can have on supporting families and the early development of children while strengthening our economy. FFYF looks forward to another 50 years of these meaningful and lasting investments and urges federal policymakers to expand their support for quality early childhood programs that work.

About the First Five Years Fund

The First Five Years Fund helps America achieve better results in education, health and economic productivity through investments in quality early childhood education programs for disadvantaged children. FFYF provides knowledge, data, and advocacy – persuading federal policymakers to make investments in the first five years of a child’s life that create greater returns for all.