Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
“I was amazed at the growth and changes in my child. . . . He learned to recognize his colors and shapes, to count and was able to write his name. Head Start definitely gave him the school readiness skills that he needed to start kindergarten.” — Lisa E., NRCA Pearisburg Head Start parent.
“My 18-month-old has special needs. After he was born, I thought I’d never find someone to keep him while I worked. Without Head Start, I couldn’t keep a job. Head Start is there to serve all children, special needs and all.” — Pamela B., TAP Head Start parent.
These parents can’t say enough about what Head Start has meant to them and their families. Head Start graduates are at the head of their kindergarten classes. Low-income parents have safe and reliable places to care for and nurture their children so that they can work — and work toward self-sufficiency. In addition to transforming more than 1,200 lives each year in and around the New River and Roanoke valleys, Head Start supports communities and reduces costs, netting gains to taxpayers.
The United States spends more than $7 billion on Head Start programs each year, more than $115 million of it in Virginia. As academics, we rely on the wisdom of science and want to ensure that federal dollars are spent on programs that work — showing benefits for both the children and families Head Start serves and for the communities we all live in. When deciding what programs to urge lawmakers to invest in, we encourage fellow taxpayers to rely on scientifically founded results rather than on rhetoric.
We know that investments in high-quality early childhood programs produce higher language, literacy and math skills, and result in better health and social outcomes for young children. But the value of programs like Head Start extends beyond those helped directly by the program to the broader community, reducing the need for public spending in remedial education, incarceration and health care.
According to economist and Nobel Laureate James Heckman, the return on investment in early education is upward of 7 to 10 percent per child, per year. Research specific to Head Start shows similar findings of 7 to 9 percent (Ludwig, J. and Phillips, D. 2007). According to the Economic Policy Institute, the total annual benefits of early childhood programs surpass costs within six years and do so by a growing margin every year thereafter.
In May, more than 300 business leaders from across the country signed a letter to President Obama and members of Congress, urging them to increase their support of high-quality early childhood education. The letter’s signatories recognize that early childhood programs like Head Start prepare children from low-income families for success in school and beyond. They call for more public investment in programs like Head Start — not less — because they are convinced that this investment will produce a highly skilled workforce, draw businesses to their communities and provide results that produce a significant return on investment.
Head Start is accountable to high, research-based federal standards and follows best practices in serving families and children who are economically disadvantaged. Children receive health screenings; nutritious meals; access to medical, dental and mental health services; and high-quality early childhood education.
Head Start parents are encouraged to pursue educational and career goals and to advocate for their children’s education while in Head Start and in school.
Several New River Community Action and Total Action for Progress Head Start centers are star-rated through the publicly and privately funded Virginia Star Quality Initiative. These ratings demonstrate attainment of quality levels beyond state requirements and commitment to continuous program improvement. TAP Head Start is also engaged in a study of how well its recent graduates fare once they transition to school. Preliminary results show that Roanoke TAP Head Start graduates enter kindergarten ready to learn at a greater rate than do their peers from across the city — many of whom have far more advantages.
When Lisa and Pamela reflect on what Head Start has done for their children, they may not think of support of policymakers, a Nobel laureate’s research or the local program efforts to continuously improve services that have made Head Start so effective. But parents like them will notice if their children aren’t given every opportunity to learn, thrive and excel.
Please join the hundreds of business leaders across the country who have recognized the positive economic returns generated by high-quality early childhood education. Ask Congress and both gubernatorial candidates to give all children the chance to fulfill their potential and create the best workforce and economy in the world.
Weather JournalNext system: Possible ice/snow Sat.