The Importance of Increasing Head Start Funding

By Cody Kornack, Senior Manager of Congressional Affairs

Federal appropriations season is the time of year when all of Congress — and the President — are making priorities and deciding how to spend federal dollars in the coming fiscal year. Head Start and Early Head Start rely on these funds to be able to provide services to children and families. Last year alone, more than 10 billion (yes, billion!) dollars went to local, community-based organizations that provide Head Start and Early Head Start services because of our hard work during the appropriations season last year.

Why does this matter? Federal appropriations provide the vast majority of funding for Head Start services, enabling local programs to meet the needs of more than one million children and their families each year. That funding also pays the salaries of the more than 250,000 staff who have chosen to devote their time and skills to work in Head Start.

If you are part of the Head Start community — or know someone who is — you are aware that Head Start is making a life-changing impact on individuals, families, and communities. At the same time, programs still need more funding to be able to meet the new needs of families, pay staff higher salaries, adapt to changing communities, and so much more. While $10 billion sounds like a large amount of money, it’s actually only enough to serve about half of the children that are eligible for Head Start and Early Head Start. What’s more, programs have new needs that require increased investments, such as providing specialized care to children affected by addiction and trauma.

The bottom line is that federal funding is extremely important to Head Start’s success, and the National Head Start Association (NHSA) is working around the clock to make sure Head Start gets a larger slice of the federal budget pie this coming fiscal year.

Now is a crucial time to influence the budget

In late winter of each year, the President releases a proposed federal budget to Congress. This budget proposal is the starting gun for the appropriations season — the period of time each year when Congress and the President debate and decide federal spending for programs such as Head Start for the coming fiscal year. While, theoretically, it is a good sign for a program to be treated well in the President’s budget, it does not mean that the funding level the President proposes will be accepted by Congress. After all, the President’s budget is, quite simply, a starting place and a reflection of the President’s priorities — not a finished product.

Last week, Congress received the President’s fiscal year 2020 (FY20) budget proposal. Thus began the lengthy discussions, research, and negotiations to decide the actual dollar amounts for everything funded by the federal government, from the national parks to the military to early childhood programs like Head Start.

In his FY20 budget proposal, President Trump advocated that Head Start should receive the same amount of funding as last year. This “flat funding” proposal was a relatively good sign in a budget that called for substantial cuts to many other education and human services programs.

Now, it’s up to the Head Start community, the members of Congress who have been steadfast champions for early childhood, and our other great advocacy allies to make the case that Head Start needs increased funding in order to continue making a difference in communities from in every corner of the country.

Take action right now, make your voice heard!

What can supporters of Head Start do to increase funding for this vital early childhood program? The simple answer is that Congress needs to hear from as many allies as we have. And the time to make our voices heard is right now!

Urge Congress to support increased Head Start funding.

If you feel strongly that our nation should invest more funding in Head Start, take one minute right now to send a message to your members of Congress. Let them know that Head Start matters to you, that Head Start and Early Head Start have growing funding needs, and that they need to prioritize meeting these needs in the upcoming funding bill.

Every voice truly does matter, and united, we’ll make a difference for America’s most vulnerable children and families!

Cody Kornack is the National Head Start Association’s senior manager of congressional affairs.

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National Head Start Association

National Head Start Association

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NHSA is a nonprofit organization committed to the belief that every child, regardless of circumstances at birth, has the ability to succeed in life.