Philanthropists Keep Head Start Open During Government Shutdown

Washington, D.C. – More than 7,000 at-risk children will be able to return to their Head Start classrooms after philanthropists Laura and John Arnold extended up to $10 million in emergency funding support to the National Head Start Association. The support will provide assistance to Head Start and Early Head Start programs that were forced to close or are facing closure this month as a result of the government shutdown. Money for Head Start in Fiscal Year 2014 has not been appropriated yet due to the stalemate in Washington leaving some programs with no access to federal funds.

When Head Start doors close, many low-income parents must miss work and school as they scramble to find alternative child care. They rely on Head Start to provide nutritious meals, medical screenings and early learning opportunities to prepare their children for kindergarten.

“For nearly fifty years, Head Start has been the window of opportunity for more than 27 million of our nation’s poorest children as they embark on their journey to achieve the American Dream,” said Yasmina Vinci, executive director of the National Head Start Association. “The Arnolds’ most generous act epitomizes what it means to be an angel investor; they have selflessly stepped up for Head Start children to ensure their path toward kindergarten readiness is not interrupted by the inability of government to get the nation’s fiscal house in order.”

At the end of the first week of the government shutdown, seven Head Start programs in six states (AL, CT, FL, GA, SC and MS) were closed, leaving 7,195 of our nation’s most vulnerable children without access to Head Start. More than 11,000 additional children risk losing access to comprehensive Head Start services if the shutdown continues through October. If the government does not reopen by November 1, additional Head Start programs serving more than 86,000 children in 41 states and one U.S. Territory stand to lose access to Head Start funding.

After learning about the devastating impact the government shutdown would have on Head Start children, the Arnolds came forward and offered assistance that will allow the programs that have been recently closed to re-open and those facing imminent closure to remain in operation. If after the government shutdown, the government provides Head Start programs funding sufficient to fund their operations for a fifty-two week period, Head Start programs will repay the funds made available by the National Head Start Association at no interest through the generosity of Laura and John Arnold.

“The entire Head Start community and the at-risk children we serve are tremendously grateful to the Arnolds for their compassion and generosity,” Vinci said. “The bottom line, however, is that angel investors like the Arnolds cannot possibly offer a sustainable solution to the funding crisis threatening thousands of our poorest children. Our elected officials simply must find a fiscal solution that protects, preserves and promotes the promise that quality early learning opportunities like Head Start offer to nearly one million at-risk children each year.”  

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: media@nhsa.org

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