Group of U.S. Senators Seek Support of Head Start Funding

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Thirty-three senate members signed on to a letter sent earlier this month urging support for the Child Care and Development Block Grant to keep funding alive for Head Start and Early Head Start programs amid recent discussions in Congress to cut funding.

Sens. Al Franken (D-MN), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA) penned the June 10 letter to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), the chair of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Sen. Richard Selby (R-AL), a ranking member on the subcommittee. The letter was written at the request of the National Head Start Association (NHSA).

According to research  by James Heckman, a Nobel Prize winner in 2000 and a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, and Art Rolnick, a senior fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs and a former Federal Reserve economist, investment in early childhood education  is a “sound public investment that benefits taxpayers.” The research has show that the return on investment of programs like Head Start show that for every $1 invested society can receive up to $16 in returns.

However, the letter to Sens. Harkin and Selby points out that only one in six eligible preschool-aged children benefit from the federal programs. One in six children receives child-care assistance, and only 4 percent of eligible infants and toddlers participate in Early Head Start. Meanwhile, less than half of eligible preschool children actually participate in Head Start.

In May, the House Appropriations Committee recommended that Head Start and Early Head Start by cut by $18 billion, nearly half of the original $41 billion in discretionary fiscal-year 2012 spending proposed by the Obama Administration. NHSA Executive Director Yasmina Vinci responded by calling proposed cuts akin to placing the nation’s budget deficit woes “directly on the backs of children.”

The proposed $18 billion in Head Start cuts were the largest for any subcategory.

In April, Head Start was spared additional cuts after President Obama signed legislation to end budget debates in Congress. Head Start will continue to be funded to the tune of $7.5 billion for the remainder of the summer.