FY22 record-level investment of $11.04 billion in Head Start

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Head Start Association (NHSA) recognizes the record investment of $11.04 billion for Head Start and Early Head Start in the FY22 budget, which is now on its way to the President’s desk. The budget includes a modest increase of $286 million over FY21.

“There is some cause for celebration—this level of Head Start funding is a historic high–and there is also reason for despair,” said NHSA Executive Director Yasmina Vinci. “In the past 12 months, we have seen a dramatic increase in inflation and unprecedented turnover in the Head Start workforce. Compensation and staff retention issues are now front and center. We need Congress to step in and stop the bleeding. While we appreciate that a COLA was included and trauma informed care needs were acknowledged, we didn’t hit the mark. Congress needs to address our systemic workforce challenges in order for Head Start to continue providing the high-quality services our families depend upon.”

NHSA’s three priorities for FY22, prepared and submitted almost a year ago, were: 1) a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for Head Start and Early Head Start staff; 2) adequate Quality Improvement Funds (QIF) to address childhood trauma; and 3) funds to provide longer hours of service. Congress provided $234 million for a COLA, which translates to a 2.3% adjustment for all Head Start staff. And, while some of the $52 million in dedicated QIF funds can be used for increasing salaries, devoting the entire amount would result in a total salary boost of less than $200 per person. Doing so would also completely neglect the need for programs to use QIF funds to address adverse childhood experiences heightened by the pandemic.

“Our programs are grappling with the emotional and psychological impacts of the past two years. Quality Improvement Funds were sought to address childhood trauma. Unfortunately, economics and staff turnover are eating into our ability to intervene effectively for children and families,” said Vinci. “Head Start stood with families before and throughout the pandemic. It is these families who are struggling most with poverty, food insecurity, unstable housing, and the devastating impacts of COVID-related loss and trauma. And it is these families who will feel this consequential funding shortfall most acutely.”

In addition to the three priorities detailed above, NHSA embraced President Biden’s call for $950 million for Early Head Start expansion in his FY22 budget request; however, no such funding was included in the final bill.

“This year’s final budget fuels NHSA’s fire to work unceasingly for increased workforce compensation. We will push for inclusion of significantly more workforce funding in a reconciliation package before the end of September and double down on that request in the next budget cycle,” said Vinci. “President Biden reaffirmed his support for expanded early learning in his State of the Union Address. Decades of independent research have shown that Head Start works and families and children desperately need what Head Start has to offer. As Congress works to design the next federal investment in early learning, it must include significantly expanded funding for the Head Start workforce.”

About NHSA

The National Head Start Association is committed to the belief that every child, regardless of circumstances at birth, has the ability to succeed in school and in life. The opportunities offered by Head Start lead to healthier, empowered children and families, and stronger, more vibrant communities. NHSA is the voice for more than 840,000 children and families from systemically underserved populations, 250,000 staff, and 1,600 Head Start grant recipients. ••• Media Contact: Emily Wagner, Director of Communications, media@nhsa.org

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