Head Start has provided critical services to low income families since it was created in 1965. The program is based on a “whole child” model, and provides comprehensive services that include preschool education, medical, dental and mental health care, nutrition services, and efforts to help parent’s build their child’s development. Since its inception, the program has served 20 million children and families nationwide.
EMILY’s List women in the House and Senate have been consistent stewards of Head Start. In 1990, when the program had its largest increase in funding to date, all of EMILY’s List’s women in the House and Senate voted in support of that legislation. Congresswoman Unsoeld went further and spoke out to demand that Head Start be fully funded that year. In 1994, EMILY’s List members in the House were co-sponsors of legislation to reauthorize Head Start and all of EMILY’s List members in the House and Senate voted for the bill. Additionally, in 1998 nearly all of EMILY’s List members in the House voted for the reauthorization of the program. In 2000, several EMILY’s List members of the House and Senate voted for a budget bill that included the largest funding increase at that time. In 2007, when Head Start was fully reauthorized, all of EMILY’s List women in the House and nearly all of EMILY’s List Senators voted for the legislation. Senator Barbara Mikulski spoke on the floor about the program, “Yet Head Start makes a difference. In 1 year, these students see huge improvements in their vocabulary, increasing from the 16th percentile to the 32nd percentile, which is almost the national norm. But Head Start does so much more. It brings children to the doctor to get immunizations and hearing checks. It helps parents get on the right track. Many parents become Head Start teachers and go back to school to get their degrees. It provides nutritious meals for children who might otherwise go hungry. I am a social worker. I have seen firsthand children whose lives were changed by a simple hearing aid or a good breakfast. Believe me: it can make all the difference.”
While EMILY’s List women in the House and Senate have worked to boost Head Start’s funding, they have also acted to block cuts and detrimental reforms. In 1996, nearly all of EMILY’s List candidates in the House voted against welfare reform, which included changes to Head Start enrollment criteria. In 2004, Democrats opposed the Republican proposal to block grant Head Start and allow some states to control the federal funding for the programs. Traditionally, Head Start funding had been given directly to programs in the states. All of EMILY’s List’s candidates in the House voted against the legislation. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a former Head Start student herself spoke out about protecting the program. She said, “I will tell my colleagues that every kindergarten, first grade and second grade teacher in my district that I have visited in every school, and I have gone to all of them, has told me that the number one thing that the Federal Government can do at the education level is to fund Head Start, to give our children the ability to start even at the starting line of education.” Then, in 2005, the Bush White House’s reauthorization for Head Start included a provision that allowed faith-based groups that run Head Start programs to use religious criteria for hiring. Again, all of EMILY’s List’s candidates in the House voted against the bill. Rep. Lynn Woolsey said, “Under the Boustany amendment, a prospective Head Start teacher could face a religious test before being hired. This amendment is unnecessary. It is wrong. I will not support a final bill that includes it.” In 2006, in the conference report for the Defense Appropriations legislation, Congressional leadership inserted a 1 percent cut across the board for non emergency spending except for veterans programs. This cut eliminated slots for 25,000 low income children in Head Start programs. EMILY’s List women in the House accounted for over 25% of the nay votes on the conference report for the budget.
EMILY’s List know the importance of Head Start. As they have said on the floor of the House and the Senate, Head Start is a program that works. In 2010, a comprehensive study was released that illustrated that Head Start students outperformed non-Head Start students. Moreover, students are less likely to need special education services in later school years and are less likely to repeat grades. They are more likely to graduate from high school, go to college and get jobs. Additionally, they are less likely to commit crimes and tend to be healthier.
In 2010, the results of the Head Start Impacts Study were released. The study was mandated by Congress and conducted between 2002 and 2006. The research sampled nearly 5,000 children in 84 Head Start programs. Some of the key findings are below:
- Head Start Works. The authors of the impact study stated, “Providing access to Head Start has a positive impact on children’s preschool experiences. There are statistically significant differences between the Head Start group and the control group on every measure of children’s preschool experiences measured in this study.” [National Head Start Association, Head Start Impact Study, released 1/13/10, accessed 2/23/12]
- Head Start Students Outperformed Non-Head Start Students in All Measured Categories. The National Head Start Foundation reported on the impact study’s findings. “The Head Start children outperformed the control group in every domain that the study measured, including positive cognitive, social-emotional, health and parenting impacts. The Head Start children left Head Start more ready for school than their peers in the control group.” [National Head Start Association, Head Start Impact Study, released 1/13/10, accessed 2/23/12]
- Long Term Impact: Studies Show Head Start Students Excel in Life. The National Head Start Foundation reported on the impact study’s findings and outlined key areas of long term impact of Head Start. They reported:
- Head Start students are less likely to need special education services in later school years
- Head Start students are less likely to repeat grades
- Head Start students are more likely to graduate from high school, go to college and get jobs
- Head Start students are less likely to commit crimes and less likely to go to jail
- Head Start students are healthier
[National Head Start Association, Head Start Impact Study, released 1/13/10, accessed 2/23/12]