- - Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Washington Times editorial “Head Start: An $8 billion, ineffective political sacred cow” (Web, Sept. 5) does not present a full picture of the benefits of Head Start. Decades of research, including the research to which the writer refers, unequivocally show that Head Start does its job: It gets at-risk children ready for kindergarten.

The writers’ shallow opinion is apparently rooted in an archaic assumption that Head Start is simply “expensive day care.” Certainly, readers would have appreciated a more transparent and honest narrative of Head Start’s approach to early learning: rigorous comprehensive services that include home visits, health screenings and improved nutrition. This approach provides a foundation for vulnerable children, stabilizing the family and home, and ensuring that the entire family is prepared and invested in their own lifelong success.

Further, the writer fails to mention a key fact; namely, that work with Head Start students ends when children graduate from the program and enter kindergarten. Yet for many Head Start children, their circumstances continue to hinder their success, including the quality of their primary and secondary education. Head Start children, like all other children, benefit greatly from being in high-performing schools, but often do not have equal chances of attending such schools.

Head Start outcomes are crystal clear: Graduates have gone on to finish high school and attend college at higher rates than their peers or even siblings who did not attend Head Start. The children of Head Start alumni grow up in stable homes enriched by Head Start’s long-term benefits. Parents who enroll their children in Head Start are able to maintain employment, and millions of alumni stories reveal that children and grandchildren of Head Start parents are raised in households filled with greater opportunity.

Certainly, we can all agree that the opportunity to succeed in life is a core American principle, regardless of circumstance at birth.


Executive director

National Head Start Association


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