Saturday, September 30, 2023

Half a century of Head Start

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson

By Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson

“Project Head Start” was launched by President Lyndon B. Johnson on May 18, 1965. Originally designed as an eight week summer demonstration project, Head Start has expanded into an array of preschool programs that provide children from low-income families with a comprehensive program that prepares them for successful entry into kindergarten, and illuminates the pathway towards a brighter future.

Educational experts view Head Start as our nation’s most comprehensive and effective program that prepares children for school. With the participation of parents, Head Start includes education, nutrition and health services for children from impoverished backgrounds and their families. In the past 50 years, approximately 25 million of our nation’s children have benefited as participants in Head Start environments.

Nearly 72,000 children and their families were beneficiaries of Head Start programs in 2014. I am pleased that 4,068 of those who were served reside in the 30th Congressional District of Texas, which I am honored to serve. Head Start is instrumental in uplifting families in Texas and throughout our nation, providing them with resources that allow children to reach their full potential.

Educators and social scientists alike believe that participants in Head Start are more likely to earn their high school diplomas, continue on to college and become self-reliant wage earners than are those who do not have the early childhood development experience that the program affords.

This success is possible because of the access to services that Head Start provides to children. It is extremely important that during this critical period in our nation’s history, we increase our support and expand the Head Start program. Every child in America should be afforded an equal opportunity to succeed, regardless of their race or their socio-economic background.

President Obama recently called on all Americans, including leaders of private and philanthropic organizations, as well as leaders on the city, state and county levels, to make earnest investments in our next generation of thinkers, dreamers and doers. The development of young people today ensures our democracy in the future. We cannot afford not to act.

We can help hardworking, low-income families build pathways that lead them and their children out of poverty. With our assistance they can become members of the middle class. If our society is serious about giving children brighter futures, we must increase our investment in Head Start programs so that more children can participate.

Now is the time to expand upon the vision of President Lyndon Baines Johnson and the Great Society” programs that resulted in the creation of Head Start. We must close the opportunity gap that so many children in our country unfairly face. We must give them a chance to succeed. It is in their best interest and in the larger society’s best interest as well.



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