- The Washington Times - Monday, November 14, 2011

The recent column titled “Head Start just another failed notion” (Web, Wednesday) is an unwarranted and ill-informed mischaracterization of Head Start’s successful, national commitment to providing critical early-childhood education services to our nation’s poorest children.

Over the past five decades, more than 27 million at-risk children have benefited from Head Start. In fact, the Department of Health and Human Services’ impact study conclusively found that at the end of the Head Start intervention, children did better on every measure than the children who did not participate in Head Start, and consistently emerged engaged, energized and fully prepared for kindergarten.

The lifelong academic success of any child, however, is also dependent on the quality of the primary and secondary schooling children receive after the age of 5. Further, the cumulative, lifelong benefits show that Head Start is a smart investment. Study after study has demonstrated that for every dollar spent on Head Start, society earns back at least $7 through increased earnings, employment and family stability, as well as decreased welfare dependency, crime costs, grade repetition and special education.

As stewards of federal funds, every single Head Start program must be held accountable for efficient service delivery and the highest quality standards. Without exception, the Head Start community remains committed to innovation and excellence in the pursuit of quality. To insinuate Head Start funding has been wasted on our nation’s youngest learners, particularly during a period of escalating poverty and soaring unemployment, is simply unfair.

YASMINA VINCI

Executive director, National Head Start Association

Alexandria