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Washington proposals put survival of Head Start at stake

by . .
Wednesday Mar 1, 2017

ABCD fighting for future of poor children, families

Submitted by Action for Boston Community Development, Inc.

Proposals in Washington, DC to eliminate America's Head Start program threaten our nation's neediest children and families. Advocates fear dismantling of the longtime, effective antipoverty initiative that has put millions of low-income children and their families on the road to economic stability.

"The survival of Head Start is at stake," said John J. Drew, President/CEO of Action for Boston Community Development, the Boston-area antipoverty organization that provides Head Start services for 2,300 low-income children and their families in Boston, Malden and Everett.

"We are angry and frustrated at proposals surfacing from federal Cabinet officials, some members of Congress and conservative think tanks that will do irreparable harm to Head Start," he said. "Those recommendations will destroy this long-time effective program that is a lifeline to more than a million poor children and their families. The national commitment to America's poor children and families must not be lost."

Drew, a former Head Start parent, noted that another million children are waiting in line for a place in Head Start because this valuable program embodying America's commitment to low-income children and families is underfunded.

"Are we going to sacrifice our children to growing the military in America? Do we really need to make that choice?" asked Drew. He noted that 2015 census figures show that 4.7 million children under age 5 are living in poverty in one of the most affluent industrialized countries in the world. "It's time to change that, not make it worse," he said. "Are the rich and powerful just going to get more rich and powerful, tossing aside those with so much less? Head Start is desperately needed, now more than ever."

"It may be time for Head Start children and parents in Boston, in Massachusetts and across the country to march to tell our new political leaders to stop doing damage to their fellow Americans who were born 75 yards behind the starting line," said Drew. "If we can't stop this attack on the poor, then it is time to go to the streets!"

Investing in America's future
Head Start serves more than a million poor children and families nationwide, providing comprehensive education, health, dental, nutrition and social services for children from birth to age five along with intensive parent engagement. The program has a documented track record of lifting families out of poverty and revitalizing communities.

A recent NBC national news report on early education cited Head Start's long-term, research-supported positive outcomes in low-income communities, including reductions in grade repetition, high school drop-out rates and teen pregnancies.

A 2016 study by Nobel Laureate economist James Heckman found that for every $1 invested in Head Start there is a $13 return to society.

"Head Start is a key element in closing America's inequality gap," said Drew. "But right now there is only enough funding to cover 40 percent of eligible children. It should be expanded, not cut."

Nationally, Head Start is an economic engine in distressed, low-income communities, employing more than 125,000 teachers and staff members, providing low-income parents with education and job opportunities, and partnering with small businesses and non-profit organizations to provide important services.

Head Start has served more than 33 million children and their families since 1965, providing pathways to success in school and life. Yesterday's Head Start children are today's lawyers, doctors, business executives and elected officials. The websites of hundreds of Head Start providers across America carry the success stories of these Ivy League graduates, professionals, working parents contributing to their communities.


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