by Shavonne Clarke
Head Start turned 52 this week! Over the past five decades, Head Start has helped to prepare 33 million American children for kindergarten. Numerous studies have detailed the long-term benefits of Head Start, which is why we’re such strong supporters of the early learning opportunities that this program provides to kids.
Our advocates around the country are also celebrating the founding of this critical U.S. program by urging Congress not to cut funding for it. In case you missed it, here are the top five ways we’ve supported Head Start in 2017:
- We conducted groundbreaking polling on Head Start. In March, we conducted a national poll and discovered that Head Start is truly a bipartisan issue: 86% of voters have a favorable opinion toward the program. Rather than cut it, 82% of those polled said they would support increasing or maintaining current levels of funding.
- Advocates met with 137 Congressional offices on Capitol Hill. During our annual Advocacy Summit in March, more than 200 advocates visited their representatives’ offices to urge them to support funding for early learning programs like Head Start. Some advocates were even able to appeal directly to their members of Congress, like Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA).
- We’ve already generated more than 50,000 messages to Congress. Our advocates have clicked, called and raised their voices to their representatives. According to Congressman Joe Kennedy (D-MA), these messages have a big impact. “If it’s just member of Congress to member of Congress, that’s one thing. But hearing from your constituents back home, hearing those stories and what that loss of investment will mean for…the children that you represent, [that’s powerful],” he said to our student advocates in March.
- Advocates around the country held a Week of Action in April. They collected petition signatures, screened films, published letters to the editor in their local newspapers and met with Congressional staff in their communities, all in support of Head Start. This week, our advocates began delivering those petition signatures directly to their representatives.
- Our supporters have published op-eds and letters to the editor. As of 2016, about six in ten Americans get their news online or in print. That’s why our Head Start advocates around the country have published several op-eds and a dozen letters to the editor of their local and state newspapers, urging support for the program. Our own president, Mark Shriver, recently wrote an op-ed urging Congress to protect funding for Head Start.
None of this would be possible without the help of supporters like you. At our annual Advocacy Summit in March, high school teacher and SCAN advocate Eric Bridgett, who participated in Head Start as a child, said that more than 90% of the students he teaches attended Head Start. “It’s a privilege to be an advocate for them,” he said.
That’s how we feel, too. Throughout 2017 (and beyond) we’ll continue to use our voices to ensure children get the best start in life through Head Start.