Head Start

Since our founding, RESULTS has advocated for Head Start. Head Start was created in 1965 and is the longest-running national school-readiness program in the United States. The program provides federally funded grants to local public and private non-profit and for-profit agencies to provide comprehensive child development services to disadvantaged preschool children and their families. These services include:

  • School readiness and cognitive development services
  • Frequent medical screening, immunizations, and dental services
  • Healthy nutritional assistance
  • Referral services for a range of individual child and family needs
  • An opportunity for parents to participate in school decision-making

RESULTS has been a long time advocate of quality early childhood development policies. Research shows that children who participate in a quality program during their preschool years are better prepared to learn, have higher self-esteem, and possess more developed social skills when they start kindergarten. RESULTS strongly supports increased investments in Head Start, Early Head Start, and the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), so that all three programs are able to serve a greater number of eligible children. Head Start reaches less than 50 percent of eligible preschoolers, and Early Head Start serves less than 4 percent of all eligible families with babies and toddlers. RESULTS will continue to advocate for funding increases for both programs so that more children and their families can be served.

With the new Congress and many members pushing for drastic and indiscriminate budget cuts this year and beyond, these programs will need RESULTS’ unique voice and grassroots’ strength to push back against these reckless policies. See our Recent Developments in Early Childhood Development Policies page for the latest on our work to protect and strengthen Head Start.

Susan CollierHead Start really changed my life. It not only gave me time to put myself together, it made me a better parent. And it really prepares the kids for school.

- Susan Collier (with two of her daughters)




Head Start Stories and the Benefits of Head Start

Melissa’s Story about Head Start

  • Head Start Parents are more emotionally supportive, read to their children daily, and were less likely to engage in negative parenting behaviors.

Merril’s Story About Fatherhood Initiative Programs in Head Start

  • Studies showed favorable impacts with fathering and father-child interaction within Head Start and Early Head Start programs. In June 1995 during the Clinton Administration, the Fatherhood Initiative was launched to strengthen the role of fathers in families.  

Almeta’s Story about Head Start panelist at the 2011 International Conference

Shavon’s Story about Head Start panelist at the 2011 International Conference

  • Early intervention with speech and other forms of therapy reduce the long term costs and the need for services later on.

Head Start Benefits Taxpayers

Head Start Impact Study Final Report, January 2010, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, confirms a positive impact on children's preschool experience. The National Head Start Association (NHSA) said in a press release, "This study demonstrates that Head Start programs are of good or better quality and finds favorable cognitive, socio-emotional, and health impacts for children who attended Head Start and positive impacts on parenting practices. Yet the study [also] indicates that many of the early gains made in Head Start prior to kindergarten might be lost at the end of first grade." NHSA notes that Head Start has a 45-year history of continuous improvement.

In March 2011 a group of researchers sent a letter to Members of Congress speaking to the benefits of Head Start. They highlighted multiple ways that Head Start has been proven to work, including the increases in educational achievement, the impacts on child health, and the fact that Head Start graduates are 12 percent less likely to be booked or charged with a crime. The letter also highlighted the Return on Investment (ROI) in Head Start ranging from $7 to $9. A Professor of Economics from the University of Chicago, James Heckman, also sent a letter to National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Reform. In his letter Heckman addresses the importance of investing in early childhood education for disadvantaged children, why it would be harmful to cut funding to existing programs, and the kind of effective programs that should be built.

A December 2009 report from the National Center for Education Statistics offers more proof that early care and education experiences are a critical part of future school success. Findings showed:

  • Children who participated in regular early care and education arrangements the year prior to kindergarten scored higher on the reading and mathematics assessments than children who had no regular experience in early care and education the year prior to entering kindergarten.
  • Children who participated in regular early care and education arrangements the year prior to kindergarten scored higher on the fine motor skill assessments than children who had no regular early care and education the year prior to entering kindergarten.
  • About four out of five (83.2 percent) participated in a regular non-parental early care and education arrangement the year before kindergarten.

The longest follow-up study ever done on early childhood education was released out of the University of Minnesota in June 2011. The research focused on participants in the Child-Parent Center Education Program (CPCEP), which is a publically funded early childhood development program in Chicago public schools. The study showed that participants had higher levels of educational attainment, socioeconomic status, job skills, and lower rates of substance abuse, felony arrest, and incarceration than children who did not participate in pre-school programs. Truly, high quality early childhood development programs are investments in our country's future that more than pay for themselves over time.

Findings from the Abecedarian Project, a project conducted by the FPG Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to see the longitudinal effects of early childhood education for low-income children, found that the positive effects of early childhood education were still apparent 30 years later. Their findings showed that participants in the Abecedarian Project, when compared to the control group, were:

  • Four times more likely to earn a college degree
  • More likely to be consistently employed
  • Less likely to have used public assistance
  • Showed a tendacy to delay parenthood by two years

This continued study is an amazing look at the longterm benefits of investing in early childhood education, and why such an opportunity is important for all children.

Critical Investments Included in the 2009 Economic Stimulus Package, Maintained Through 2011

Early childhood programs have been on a rollercoaster ride as of late. In 2009, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Congress increased funding for Head Start/Early Head Start and the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) by $2 billion each. In 2009 and 2010, these increases helped open up 7,000 Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms, as well as provide 200,000 low-income children child care while their parents worked. In 2011, however, the House of Representatives sought to undermine these gains by targeting Head Start and child care for deep cuts.  Fortunately, RESULTS volunteers, along with our allies, were able to stave off most of these cuts in the FY 2011 budget.  Head Start/ Early Head Start saw a $340 million increase in funding in FY 2011 and a $409 million increase in FY 2012, ensuring that existing enrollment levels were maintained.

Unfortunately, in FY 2013, sequestration led to a more than 5% cut to Head Start and Early Head Start, resulting in over 50,000 children losing access to Head Start.  These cuts were restored in FY 2014, and $500 million in additional funding was made available to expand Early Head Start - Child Care Partnerships.  For FY 2015, a proposed Senate appropriations bill would increase funding for Early Head Start by $65 million, which would include funding for Early Head Start - Child Care Partnerships.  However, the House appropriators may aim to slash funding for Head Start and Early Head Start.  

Without a sustained effort to push back against reckless and devastating cuts, they could become reality. We need to put a local face on these programs so that members of Congress think twice before turning their backs on low-income children. See our Recent Developments in Early Childhood Development Policies for the latest on Congress' action on these important programs. Join us by taking action -- see our U.S. Poverty Actions and News page for strategic ways you can impact this debate, including sending e-mails to Congress using our Head Start and child care funding action alert.

Head Start Reauthorization

Head Start, which was created to meet the need for comprehensive development services for low-income children, has been a tremendous success for those lucky enough to participate. But when Congress took up Head Start reauthorization in 2003, its quality was threatened by a proposal to turn its jurisdiction over to the states. Over the course of four years, RESULTS activists generated hundreds of pieces of media and lobbied their members of Congress repeatedly. REF held a media campaign, including a call joined by over 50 journalists.

When the bill was finally signed into law in December of 2007, it included a number of victories. It maintained federal oversight, eliminated inappropriate standardized testing of Head Start children, and authorized an increase in funding for Early Head Start, the program for infants and toddlers. The 2007 law authorized Head Start through September 2012, so a reauthorization is overdue. Reauthorization is an opportunity to build on the program's successes and make needed improvements. For more information, see the National Head Start Association's 2014 Policy Agenda.

Proposals to Block Grant Head Start

There have long been proposals to convert Head Start funding into block grants to states. Most recently, Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) included a proposal to block grant Head Start in his Expanding Opportunity in America planBlock granting programs can make them more vulnerable to future funding cuts and decrease accountability. Considering that Head Start already serves less than half of all eligible children, making the program into a block grant could decrease its capacity to continue serving the existing number of families.

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