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Thursday, July 25, 2013
We have to save Head Start. There is simply no other option if we are going to live up to our responsibility to provide for our children and future generations.
Many do not know that Head Start was one of the key critical responses to the war on poverty in 1965, and the program has served millions of children over those years. It was a successful and effective program then, and it is an even better program now, despite crippling funding cuts over the last several years.
Let me ask the question this way: If the federal government can make exceptions to the sequestration with air travel, why won’t it rescue our kids?
I have been involved as a health advisory committee member for the New River Community Action’s Head Start program for more than a decade and am a member of the policy council. Not only have I been impressed with the genuine love and commitment given to kids by all NRCA staff, but I am always amazed at how they are able to adhere to a voluminous set of strict policies and regulations required by the federal government.
The problem is that success stories often go untold, as the news often focuses on the spectacular — which often means failure in a given arena. So unless individuals are directly involved with Head Start programs, they have no idea of the miracles and plain magic this program’s staff and volunteers pull off on a daily basis with their blood, sweat and tears.
Parents, grandparents, child advocates, teachers, faith leaders, elected officials and even business-savvy individuals understand that investment in our children produces the biggest return on investment; however, there is a simple way to let political candidates know that voters care about our children. They can contact their local congressmen and make it clear that enough is enough. We will no longer sit idly by as the opportunity for the future success for our kids becomes collateral damage to ill-conceived budget cuts. Mind you, these are not one-time cuts, but a continuous attack on the integrity of this program for the next 10 years.
Voters also can be advocates for children at the state level by contacting gubernatorial candidates Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe, and asking them to publicly announce their plans to address children’s issues. How will they impact preschool readiness, one of the best determinants of future success, now that Head Start’s funding has been slashed by the federal government? What are their strategies to address child poverty, health, after-school care and abuse/neglect prevention?
The person sitting in that governor’s seat has a great deal of influence on these and other issues of paramount concern to our children.
The advocacy group Every Child Matters has launched its Strong Kids Strong Virginia campaign with a focus on making our kids a political priority. ECM’s children’s campaign does not support individual candidates or any political party, but rather speaks to all the candidates and voters to ensure that children’s issues do not get lost in the political smoke and mirrors of special-interest groups. I hope the commonwealth’s gubernatorial candidates, as well as others running for political office, will commit to workable plans to invest in children’s services, allowing voters to make an informed choice when casting their ballots in November.
We are collecting signatures to announce to McAuliffe and Cuccinelli that voters need to hear from them regarding their commitment to Virginia’s children. Voters can sign the petition by going to strongkidsstrongvirginia.com. We will deliver these signatures to both candidates to ensure that the voters of Virginia know where our candidates stand.
Want my vote in November? Invest in kids. Want to be re-elected to Congress? End the sequestration on Head Start.
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