House Dear Colleague Letter Supporting Head Start for FY2019, Led by Stivers and Jenkins

April 9, 2018

The Honorable Rodney P. Frelinghuysen
Chairman
House Appropriations Committee
H-305, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515
The Honorable Tom Cole
Chairman
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Committee on Appropriations
2368-B Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

 

Dear Chairman Frelinghuysen and Chairman  Cole:

As you begin work on the Fiscal Year 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, we write to request that you continue to prioritize robust funding for Head Start. At a time when there are significant constraints on the federal budget and disagreements on the best use of taxpayer dollars, continuing to support investments in Head Start is a fiscally prudent decision.

The mission of Head Start extends beyond preparing children for kindergarten and grade school. Rather, Head Start centers on empowering families and communities with the knowledge  and resources they need  to ensure that future generations of Americans  are able to succeed not only in their adolescence, but at every stage of  life.

The positive impact of Head Start’s services is clear. Head Start children make progress in language, literacy, and math, while also demonstrating significant gains in social-emotion and cognitive development. They also are more likely to receive health screenings immunizations, and develop healthy lifestyle patterns. Additionally, Head Start parents are more likely to increase their own educational levels and devote more time to learning activities with their children, and non-resident fathers spend more days per month with their children.

Research demonstrates that Head Start children are more likely to graduate high school, go to college, and achieve a higher quality of life as adults. They are also less likely to be incarcerated or unemployed. For the federal government, as well as for local communities, this means less money spent in the criminal justice system, welfare, healthcare, foster care, and special education.

None of these immediate and long-term outcomes of Head Start would be possible without its community and family-based structure. By working directly with local community systems to provide high-quality, evidence-based early education for children and families based on their specific needs and preferences, Head Start cuts through unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy. Additionally, by involving the whole family in a child’s education and development through an emphasis on parent engagement, Head Start facilitates the strengthening of families and local communities.

As an example of this uniquely local approach, Head Start programs are now also on the front lines of the opioid epidemic, treating neonatal abstinence syndrome and working with families to overcome addiction. The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis recently highlighted the importance of comprehensive family centered approaches that “ensure families have access to drug screening, substance use treatment, and parental support.” Head Start furthers this goal.

Given the critical role of Head Start in addressing the challenges facing our most vulnerable children, families, and communities, we again urge that the Fiscal Year 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations bill continue to prioritize robust funding for the program. We look forward to continuing to work with you on this effort.

Sincerely,