Son of Head Start founder warns against potential cut to program
- Proposed funding cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services in President Donald Trump’s proposed budget endanger its work, Mark K. Shriver writes in Ed Week. Mark’s father, Sargent Shriver, developed the program during the Johnson administration.
- Head Start offers opportunities for young students from low-income families to have an opportunity for early childhood education. Shriver notes that Head Start’s alumni include a former HHS Secretary, as well as the president of the Ford Foundation.
- Shriver argues Head Start helps to alleviate a crushing gap in early childhood education enrollment; 53% of three-and-four-year olds are not enrolled in early childhood education, and those students often start school further behind than those who did attend.
Research indicates that early childhood education, while a formidable initial investment, pays off in dividends for students and for the economy later in life. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the city’s universal pre-K program offered a $13 return on investment for every dollar spent on early childhood education by way of improved student outcomes.
There is a clear indication that early childhood education can be beneficial, but the challenge is an access gap that is similar to the problems facing public education in general. The problem with a gap in early childhood education enrollment is that grade level disparities can widen as the student progresses further; by the time they reach higher grades, some educators report massive disparities in grade level preparedness from students in a single class.
A study by the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska found that urban-area residents were more likely to be concerned with the cost of early childhood education programs, while rural-area residents said their biggest concern was that there were not enough programs to serve the need. If Head Start is cut, it may perpetuate the equity and preparedness gaps which already exist.