This week the Education and Workforce Committee, chaired by Representative John Kline, held a hearing to discuss the importance of Head Start and how the committee and ultimately Congress will improve the program for future generations.
Earlier this year, Chairman Kline requested input into what issues should be addressed in a reauthorization of the program in a way that has a meaningful impact on the program. This hearing was the next logical step in the reauthorizing process and certainly a welcome one. Members who aren’t intricately aware of the inner workings of the program were able to learn from witnesses about the power of high-quality early learning programs in the lives of low-income children and the role and importance of elevating quality through reauthorization.
While overall a positive hearing, there are still some members who are skeptical about long term gains. One need only look to the impact Head Start or high quality early learning programs have on ensuring children enter the kindergarten classroom on par with their peers. Or to states from Oklahoma to New Jersey, we have seen the impact of early learning plays. Research shows, the time children attend high-quality, early learning programs is one of the most important factors contributing to successful outcomes later in life. We have seen that not only are these programs being replicated and scaled in the states, but consistently produce results such as school readiness, higher achievement, and reducing the need for special and remedial education.
For example, Tulsa’s pre-k program has repeatedly shown substantial short-term gains in school readiness, including big gains in pre-reading, pre-writing, and pre-math effects. And an evaluation of New Jersey’s pre-k program found that child who attended the program significantly outperformed similar children who did not attend.
These are just two examples of state preschool programs across the country that are working wonders. As the committee works to improve the quality of Head Start programs, it is our hope that the committee looks to programs such as these for inspiration.
Read FFYF’s letter to Representative Kline on the reauthorization of the Head Start Act.