Last night, NBC Nightly News aired a heartwarming segment on the undeniable success of the Head Start program, highlighting how the program is giving children in poverty a chance to develop the skills they need to do well in school, and setting them up for a lifetime of success that might otherwise be out of reach.
Head Start is “a federal program worth the investment, giving some of America’s most vulnerable children a chance for a better life,” reports NBC’s chief education correspondent, Rehema Ellis.
The federally-funded Head Start program delivers comprehensive early learning, health, nutrition, and family support services to children ages 3 through 5 living in poverty and their families. Since its founding in 1965 as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, Head Start has served over 35 million low-income children and families.
Decades of research shows that participation in Head Start has both short- and long-term positive effects for Head Start children and their families. Children who attend Head Start demonstrate marked academic and social progress, and are more likely to enter kindergarten ready to learn. Additionally, adults who attended Head Start as children are more likely to graduate high school and are better prepared to be parents to their own children. Head Start also increases parents’ engagement in their children’s learning, and parents whose children attend Head Start are more likely to advance their own education than other parents of at-risk youngsters. Research also shows that Head Start program quality has improved dramatically over the past 10 years. This is due, in large part, to Congress passing bipartisan Head Start legislation in 2007 that included policies designed to strengthen teaching in Head Start programs and improve coordination between Head Start and other early childhood programs. Additionally, in 2016, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services revised the Head Start Performance Standards to further support high-quality early learning and comprehensive services by emphasizing performance and ongoing improvement, rather than compliance, and incorporating recent research on effective early learning, child development, and family engagement.
Because of the overwhelmingly positive impact the program has had over the past 5 decades, Head Start enjoys broad bipartisan support among voters, as well as Republican and Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Last year, bipartisan legislation to fund federal programs included an $890 million increase for Early Head Start and Head Start.
What’s more, FFYF’s latest national poll shows that 80% of voters support providing greater funding to Head Start and Early Head Start, including 62% of Republicans and 96% of Democrats.
Head Start continues to make a difference in the lives of children and their families, and FFYF is grateful for the steadfast, bipartisan champions in Congress who support this crucial program!