NHSA applauds investments for Head Start in House reconciliation bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Head Start Association (NHSA) welcomed substantial increases in federal funding for Head Start proposed in the House Committee on Education and Labor’s 289-page portion of the reconciliation bill released yesterday.

The Committee’s portion of the Build Back Better Act invests roughly $450 billion in securing universal pre-K for three- and four-year-olds and lowering the cost of child care while raising the quality. While the bill is still in the very early stages—legislators will review the text line by line this afternoon—NHSA is very encouraged by what Congress is discussing and debating in Committee, which includes:

  • $15 billion to increase compensation for the Head Start workforce over six years—our field’s most pressing priority
  • Protection for Head Start, specifically mandating full enrollment for Head Start, in which state pre-K systems must look to fill all Head Start slots first before creating new slots
  • Expansion of statewide pre-K in the model of Head Start, including the possibility of local grants to Head Start if state governments opt out of participating
  • Requirement of state-level child care quality to be held to Head Start Program Performance Standards

“While it is not a straightforward expansion of Head Start, this legislation is most certainly Head Start’s opportunity to lead the future of early childhood education and care,” said NHSA Executive Director Yasmina Vinci. “The reconciliation bill leverages and relies on state systems and, in doing so, centers Head Start as their North Star—pointing America’s universal pre-K system towards equity.”

The legislation elevates Head Start as the gold standard for quality child care and early childhood education, and is evidence that Congress is committed to Head Start’s ability to deliver equitable access. From requiring full utilization of Head Start as pre-K expands, to ensuring the universal model continues to reach children and families from vulnerable backgrounds, NHSA is thrilled to see that Congress has received our message: Head Start is key to the vitality of communities.

“We are delighted to see this legislation incentivize states to provide comprehensive services to children and families and other hallmarks of the Head Start model,” says Moises Gallegos, director of the Arizona Head Start Association. “Also, the new funding to expand compensation for the Head Start workforce is long overdue. If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that the frontline early childhood education workforce deserves to be compensated equitably and fairly for their incredible work to meet changing local needs and foster community resilience.”

Additional early childhood investments of note in the reconciliation bill include:

  • Lowering the cost of child care for American families
  • Raising wages for child care workers
  • Preventing child hunger by expanding our most effective child nutrition programs

“We are so energized to see that this proposal to expand early childhood education and care places equity at its center. This is the only way we will make meaningful progress toward closing the achievement gap and paving the way for the best-educated generation in U.S. history,” said NHSA’s Director of Government Affairs Bob Bissen. “We look forward to seeing how the bill progresses in the House and to a similarly robust commitment from the Senate.”

This part of the Build Back Better legislation is slated for mark-up by the House Education and Labor Committee tomorrow. The full House and Senate will take up debate on the reconciliation bill later this fall.

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 1 million children, 270,000 staff and 1,600 Head Start grant recipients in the United States. ••• Media Contact: Emily Wagner, Director of Communications, media@nhsa.org

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