Following the death of former Sen. Arlen Spector on Oct. 14 after a nearly seven-year battle with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, the National Head Start Association called him a “good friend” to early education for the nation’s impoverished toddlers and preschoolers. He was 82.
Specter was also Pennsylvania’s longest-serving senator, and NHSA added that he was a “beacon of bipartisanship” for his efforts to cross party lines to forge compromises.
“At a time when we lament legislative inaction, his death comes as a tremendous loss for those who yearn for a more cooperative Congress,” said NHSA in a statement last week.
The association pointed out that Specter raised funds for scholarships and student loans as a sitting member on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee. In 2009, Specter was one of only three Republicans to vote in favor of President Obama’s $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which secured $2.1 billion dollars of funding for Head Start and Early Head Start programs. NHSA said federal funds allowed Head Start grantees to serve an additional 16,600 children and families and nearly doubled the number of pregnant women, infants, toddlers and their families who could access Early Head Start services.
Specter called this decision the “biggest vote of my 28 years.”
Jane Irvin, CEO and president of Community Services for Children in Pennsylvania, said Specter was “a strong advocate for Head Start and for Early Head Start. He helped secure funding to support an innovative Early Head Start/ Child Welfare Collaboration project (SafeStart) to help infants and their families who were struggling to meet the basic needs of life. Because of his advocacy and strong support, babies who had been abused and impacted by drugs at birth are now thriving , in safe and secure homes, along with their parents who are engaged and strong. These kids didn’t vote, and will probably never know the impact that Senator Specter had on their lives. But they are successful today because of his vision and commitment to help the most vulnerable of our citizens.”