House Proposal Would Cut Head Start Services to 218k Children

Feb 17, 2011

See state-by-state projections of number of children to lose services under House proposal.

By Danielle Ewen

The House Republicans proposal to cut 15 percent from Head Start would lead to 16,000 classrooms closing--some immediately--and 218,000 children being shut out of their Head Start programs.

This proposal, if passed, will pull the rug out from under Head Start and Early Head Start programs. Making a cut of this size, this late in the year, will not only  force some programs to close classrooms but also to  lower the level of quality of services and the hours and days they are open. This is a time to increase funding for early childhood programs because they invest in human capital and prepare young children to be successful in school and in life. With one in four young children living in poverty, the need for Head Start is greater than ever.

The cut proposed in the House not only will hurt our most vulnerable children, it is the definition of penny-wise and pound foolish. National studies confirm that Head Start has improved the lives of both children and their families. Head Start is a critically important support for poor families. In addition to an early education, it provides comprehensive services and supports that children and families need to thrive. Head Start ensures that children get the glasses they need to see and appropriate medical care. Head Start children are more likely to be up to date on their immunizations.

Four decades of research confirm that Head Start improves the readiness of poor children, and that children who participate perform better in school and are less likely to repeat a grade or need special education services and have higher graduation rates than their peers. Head Start children outperform their peers on every measure of children's preschool experiences, including cognitive development and health. Research is also clear that Early Head Start, which reaches infants and toddlers, also works. The program has positive impacts on a wide array of child outcomes, as well as family self-sufficiency and parental support of child development. Children who participate in Early Head Start programs show gains in language and cognitive development, exhibit lower levels of aggressive behavior and more positive interactions with their parents than do children from similar backgrounds who did not participate in Early Head Start.

Low-income children need a Head Start if they are going to come to school ready to succeed. This is a program that helps our economy now by employing thousands of people. It strengthens our future economy by giving these children the high quality early education experiences they need. We harm our economy by cutting the jobs of 55,000 teachers, bus drivers, and others currently working in Head Start and shortchanging the future of 218,00 poor children whose early learning experience is critical to their success in school and in life and our country's future.

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